Game Changers: George Palikaras, founder and CEO of Metamaterial Technologies

Inspiration comes to people in varied ways. For George, it came by way of wanting to prevent athletes from being blinded by laser beams aimed at their eyes by nasty spectators. This led to further research in nanotechnology and eventually the founding of Metamaterial Technologies.

Six years later, MTI has become a thriving optical solutions and nano-composites company specializing in metamaterials, nanofabrication, as well as theoretical and computational electromagnetics.

Today, MTI has three wholly owned subsidiaries. Lamda Guard Inc. develops advanced filters to block out selected parts of the light spectrum, protecting the eyes from lasers or other sources of hazardous light. Lamda Solar Inc. products increase the efficiency of solar panel cells by absorbing more light. Lamda Lux Inc. technology increases the delivered lumens and reduces the cost of thermal management of LED lighting.

George Palikaras, Game Changer, of Metamaterial Technologies

George Palikaras

Q How did you start out in this industry and how has it brought you to where you are today?

I am a sports enthusiast. I noticed fans watching certain European sports teams were using lasers to blind opposing team players to influence the game. Then a friend of mine in the aviation safety industry mentioned that lasers were being pointed at pilots at night commercial aviation. A laser can cause temporary flash blindness, glare, and distraction.

I realized that nanotechnology had the potential to provide a long-term solution to this increasing problem.  My father-in-law was an aircraft maintenance engineer and he educated me on the process to integrating a solution onto an aircraft.

A metamaterial thin film to block lasers was one of the first products that I designed when we started our company in 2010.

Then in Oct. 2011, I was invited to speak at a conference at Eurcontrol in Brussels, which is the European equivalent of the FAA, where I first presented my work on metamaterials.

Within a few months, we were approached by NATO, airlines and aircraft manufacturers about our technology. In 2014, our company signed a partnership agreement with Airbus to test our breakthrough innovation designed to deflect unwanted bright light or laser sources from impacting jetliner flight paths and causing pilot disorientation or injury. Flight tests started with Airbus using large scale prototypes of our metaAIR product in November 2015 and the product is now in final stages of development.

Q What is your role in your organization today?

As founder and CEO of MTI, I travel around the globe establishing relationships with various world leading companies to discuss how our platform technology can be integrated into their supply chain. I am constantly on the lookout for new opportunities and problems that our technology can solve. Part of this is identifying potential business partners. I also spend as much time as possible involved in the ideation and innovation of our products.

Q What was your most challenging moment?

We are one of the first companies working to commercialize metamaterials. One of the biggest challenges we faced was the absence of viable manufacturing tools to produce large-scale, high-volume optical metamaterial products. In June, we acquired the business of a Silicon Valley nanofabrication company called Rolith, which included their RML lithographic technology, a perfect complement to our business, allowing us to scale up our manufacturing of metamaterials.

Q What was your a-ha moment?

A few years ago, I contacted the civil aviation authorities in the United Kingdom to find out what the number of laser strikes in commercial aviation had been over the last 10 years and found out that the number of strikes more than doubled year-over-year. And the cost of owning a powerful laser was dropping by 70 per cent every year.

Last year, the number of FAA-reported laser incidents in the US nearly doubled to 7,703 and in the UK the British Pilot Association reported 1,439 laser attacks in 2015.

Q What is the one thing that has you most fired up today?

I am passionate about helping people change the way they use, interact and benefit from light. Our scientists at MTI are re-writing the books of physics, offering new solutions to complex problems. The potential applications of nanotechnology are endless and the next two decades will be pivotal for many industries.

Q What is the best advice you received?

Lead by example and to pay it forward by sharing what we know with the next generation.

Q What is a habit that contributes to your success?

Perseverance and surrounding myself with the best team has played a key role in our success.  I work daily with some of the top scientists in the world that are at the forefront of metamaterials. We continuously collaborate with the best in our field and it has definitely given us a competitive advantage.

What is your parting piece of advice?

The size of your business doesn’t matter, it’s  about the problem you are solving.

Q What people or organizations do you believe best embody the innovation mindset? 

Airbus is a great example of a leading company that embodies the innovation mindset. We were a small business with a product that could potentially provide vision protection against laser strikes for pilots when Airbus began working with us to help us tailor a solution for the industry. We are very grateful for the faith they put in us.

Author: Nestor Arellano

Nestor Arellano is editor of Vanguard Magazine. Nestor is a seasoned journalist who has written extensively on defence and military industry issues as well as technology and business developments. He is also associate editor of Vanguard's sister publication, IT in Canada.

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