Spray-On Liquid Glass

Saturday, August 14, 2010

"We live in a moment of history where change is so speeded up that we begin to see the present only when it is already disappearing." Ronnie D. Laing

Potentially Amazing Technology: Is Spray-On Liquid Glass About to Make Everything Greener?

by Michael Graham Richard, Ottawa, Canada  02. 3.10
"The fissure was induced in order present an image which shows the characteristics of the coating. The image shows the SiO2 coating on a filament of a microfibre." Image: Nanopool
If it Works and is Safe, It Could Change the World
A special coating technically known as "SiO2 ultra-thin layering", but more memorably called "spray-on liquid glass", has been invented in Turkey at the Saarbrücken Institute for New Materials (the patent is owned by Nanopool). It is non-toxic promises to "protect virtually any surface against almost any damage from hazards such as water, UV radiation, dirt, heat, and bacterial infections [...] the coating is also flexible and breathable, which makes it suitable for use on an enormous array of products."
How Does it Work?
The details are still secret, but based on the information that is available, it seems like a pretty simple process. They purify silicon dioxide (SiO2, which is basically what you find in regular glass) from quartz sand, add water or ethanol molecules, and then through an unknown process are able to spray this on surfaces and get a very thin film of glass (100 nanometers, or 15-30 molecules) to stick. "The really clever part is that there are no added nano-particles, resins or additives- the coatings form and bond due to quantum forces." They also claim that it is very safe (these is already a lot of these types of inert molecules out in the wild, though I think it stills needs to be rigorously tested for toxicity).
An Almost Unbelievable List of Applications
Nanopool writes:
The flexible and breathable glass coating is approximately 100 nanometres thick (500 times thinner than a human hair), and so it is completely undetectable. It is food safe, environmentally friendly (winner of the Green Apple Award) and it can be applied to almost any surface within seconds . When coated, all surfaces become easy to clean and anti- microbially protected (Winner of the NHS Smart Solutions Award ). Houses, cars, ovens, wedding dress or any other protected surface become stain resistant and can be easily cleaned with water ; no cleaning chemicals are required. Amazingly a 30 second DIY application to a sink unit will last for a year or years, depending on how often it is used. But it does not stop there - the coatings are now also recognised as being suitable for agricultural and in-vivo application. Vines coated with SiO2 don't suffer from mildew, and coated seeds grow more rapidly without the need for anti-fungal chemicals. This will result in farmers in enjoying massively increased yields . Trials for in-vivo applications are subject to a degree of secrecy, but Neil McClelland, the UK Project Manager for Nanopool GmbH, describes the results as "stunning". "Items such as stents can be coated, and this will create anti sticking features - catheters , and sutures which are a source of infection, will also cease to be problematic."
Physorg has a few more details: "Food processing companies in Germany have already carried out trials of the spray, and found sterile surfaces that usually needed to be cleaned with strong bleach to keep them sterile needed only a hot water rinse if they were coated with liquid glass. The levels of sterility were higher for the glass-coated surfaces, and the surfaces remained sterile for months. [...] A year-long trial of the spray in a Lancashire hospital also produced "very promising" results for a range of applications including coatings for equipment, medical implants, catheters, sutures and bandages. The war graves association in the UK is investigating using the spray to treat stone monuments and grave stones, since trials have shown the coating protects against weathering and graffiti. Trials in Turkey are testing the product on monuments such as the Ataturk Mausoleum in Ankara. "
Promising, but Let's Wait and See
I'm still waiting for more tests (real-world and lab) before getting too excited. But if it works as promised, this could be a new super-material like graphene, with multiple applications in tons of different fields. And if it really makes things more durable and reduces or removes the need for strong chemicals to clean something, it could have a pretty significant positive environmental impact. But it could also have unforeseen effects, so let's not rush to put this everywhere.

BPA - short definition below:
Bisphenol A, commonly abbreviated as BPA, is an organic compound with two phenol functional groups. It is a difunctional building block of several important plastics and plastic additives.
Suspected of being hazardous to humans since the 1930s, concerns about the use of bisphenol A in consumer products were regularly reported in the news media in 2008 after several governments issued reports questioning its safety, thus prompting some retailers to remove products containing it from their shelves. A 2010 report from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) raised further concerns regarding exposure of fetuses, infants, and young children.[1]

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