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Q&A with Ilika plc: Seagate & University of Southampton project

Ilika plc (LON:IKA) Chief Executive Officer Graeme Purdy caught up with DirectorsTalk for an exclusive interview to discuss the two year project with Seagate and the University of Southampton


Q1: Now Graham, some exciting news out this morning in that you’re taking part in a project between Seagate and the University of Southampton. Could you explain to us how this project fits in with Ilika plc’s portfolio of activities?

A1: As you probably know Ilika has got a portfolio of material development projects that it runs on what you can think of as its horizontal platform i.e. a platform that allows us to make materials for different applications in electronics and energy storage, and this is one of those electronics material development programmes. In addition of course we’re probably best known for taking some of those individual materials and then turning them into products like the solid state battery programme which is our flagship programme but this particular programme with Seagate fits into that horizontal technology portfolio.


Q2: Can you tell me what nanophotonic materials are?

A2: Yes, photonics comes from the word ‘photon’ which is the smallest unit of light, just like the electron is the smallest unit of electricity and photonics is the interaction of photons with materials. In fact this particular project is about 2D materials which are very thin layers of crystalline materials consisting of a single payer of atoms and they can actually confine light and focus it which makes it of interest to Seagate.


Q3: So why are these materials of interest to Seagate?

A3: Because they can use these materials to in fact focus the magnetic recording processing of their hard drive heads that they use in their applications so they’re trying to improve the process, the manufacturing process that they use for making these had drives.


Q4: Isn’t the hard drive technology being overtaken by solid state drives?

A4: Yes, well as a consumer when you’re buying a laptop you’ve got to make the decision between either a solid state drive or a hard drive as a storage component, as a memory component in the laptop. Solid state drives have certainly made a lot of in-roads into the market but actually hard drives still remain significantly cheaper per unit of memory and still dominant the market so it’s by far the largest part of the market at the moment.


Q5: So why has Seagate chosen to work with Ilika plc and the University of Southampton?

A5: Well it’s really to access the combination of the expertise at the university, you might remember that the optoelectronics research centre which is Europe’s largest optoelectronics facility if based in Southampton, and that’s the part of the university that’s working together with us, so they’ve got quite some expertise in these types of photonic materials and that’s combined with our expertise in using high throughput techniques to be able to rapidly develop new materials for applications just like these.

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