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Meet Hydrop, the Russian team helping clothes clean themselves

0 5 June 2014

Picture the scene: you really want that long, white, floor-length coat but are worrying about staining it before even the first sign of bad weather. Well fear not, a Russian company has created a substance that not only prevents water from making wet marks on clothing, it also allows other stains to be rubbed right off. 


The Team


Marina Ross - CEO & Founder, Moscow Power Institute, MBA Skolkovo. Responsible for obtaining investors, marketing and sales.

Andrei Grunin - CTO & Founder, Moscow State University, Physics Faculty. Postgraduate studies in Laser Physics. Responsible for technological development and product manufacture.

We asked Marina to tell us more about the project: 


Development


"Developing the first product took us around half a year. During this time, I learnt everything about the 'Lotus' effect (extremely high water repellence), about superhydrophobic and superhydrophilic properties and about nano-relief and various nano-particles. We bought up all the related products we could find, investigated the market and spoke with foreign and Russian experts. Of course, we also tested different substances, adapting and  selecting the optimal parameters. We funded and carried out all of the research ourselves, keeping up our main jobs and investing our wages in the project. 

We carried on like this until the moment when, in the middle of the night, the phone rang and I heard my partner's voice saying “we've done it! At last we've done it!” The very next day I resigned from my job to focus fully on HYDROP. The team received seed investments from two business angels and these investors helped us find our way into Skolkovo."


How it looks


The substance is colourless and odourless. It looks just like water, but apply it to any material and once dry, you can spill pretty much anything on it and just wipe it off with a cloth. You can see how it works with wine in the video below. 

Diving deeper into the technology, the team has discovered a number of uses for the product. Work on the substance is ongoing, and coatings have already been developed for:

  • Textiles, leather and suede (industrial and commercial)
  • Stones, concrete, bricks and plaster
  • Wood, paper and cardboard

Work has now begun on a substance to coat metal surfaces and other products.



Potential market


In addition to selling directly to consumers the project sees a bright future in the b2b sector. Potential clients include restaurants, hotels, cleaning services, restoration services, and construction companies. Broadly speaking, any sphere which needs to protect things from the degrading effects of water or liquid contamination would benefit from it, be it an office carpet, car interior or the foundations of a house.

"The number of uses for Hydrop are huge, but in Skolkovo they taught me not to divide my attention between too many projects, but instead to focus on and develop one successfully. Because of this, we have concentrated all of our resources, together with our angel investors, on finding the qu
ickest way to market for our main product - a coating for clothes and footwear.

For three months, until the end of January, a huge amount of our efforts were spent on developing the final design of  the product, ie. the general branding, its name and identity, as well as buying nano-parts and other essential components. We also spent time sorting out the manufacturing of our canisters and packaging, a task that which turned out to be far from trivial as aluminium canisters aren't produced in Russia. We obtained certificates, prepared marketing materials and developed our website and online shop.

In short, if you'd told me 6 months ago that I'd soon be involved in nanotechnology and introducing a brand new solution I'd never have believed you. Now we've finished manufacturing the first batch of canisters, opened the pre-ordering site last week, and will begin deliveries from the 1st of June."


Competition


There is some competition from waterproofing products for sportswear and creams and sprays for shoes, however these are paraffin based products which are very different from nanotechnology.

The two most well known waterproof nano-coating brands are NeverWet and UltraEverDry.

What distinguishes HYDROP from competitors (according to its creators):

  • A completely transparent coating, invisible to the eye (unlike other substances)
  • It’s undetectable by touch and doesn't leave a crust

  • It doesn't affect the permeability of surfaces, won't block pores and leaves surfaces breathable
  • Maintains a high resistance to dirt
  • The ability to ‘clean itself’. Drops of water simply roll off the surface of the material, collecting up any bits of dust or dirt
  • Antibacterial properties. HYDROP prevents the growth of harmful pathogens
  • Protection against UV radiation, which prevents discolouration
  • It is odourless, making it suitable for household cleaning
  • The canister is not pressurised, making it safe to use
  • It is biologically inert (non-reactive), biocompatible (interacts appropriately with a surface) and non-toxic.

"Whilst developing the product, we paid a lot of attention not just to its effectiveness, but also to its ecological sustainability and consumer quality. 93% of our product is made up of water, 6% of components are found in food additives, and the remaining 1% is a compound which is used in cosmetics (and in the future we hope to omit this entirely) - but this doesn't mean that HYDROP should be drunk or inhaled. What it does mean, is that we have managed to create a product which is effective, safe and suitable for use on delicate items, such as designer clothes, expensive shoes and bags, evening dresses and silk ties to name a few. There isn't any other substance on the market which can be applied to the protection of everyday or expensive clothing without risk of ruining the item or inhaling iso-paraffin with harmful phenolic resins. Because of this, we are boldly looking into trading not just within Russia, but also on the international market . We have already received a few orders from other countries, including Canada and the United States.

The Future


"Our plans for development are ambitious. By September, we will have already made 100,000 units of the product, which will be on the shelves of 6 cities in Russia. This project will demand all of our attention, but it is feasible. We are also now expanding our team in order to expand into the b2b-sector and in 4-5 years time, we aim to become market leaders in protective coatings for any type of surface."

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