02/04/2010 (7:27 am)
I’ve been a bit heavy lately, so here’s something positive.
Trekkies recall Chief Engineer Scott altering history by revealing the formula for transparent aluminum to a 20th-century engineer. But real, modern innovation has produced something even better for certain applications: spray-on glass, about 30 molecules thick. That’s 1/500 of the thickness of a human hair, according to the UK Telegraph.
No, you can’t build a whale aquarium in a Klingon starship with it. But it promises to revolutionize institutional sterilization and other cleaning-related applications.
You see, when glass is that thin, it’s flexible, and it breathes, but it still retains the slickness and water resistance of glass. Also, bacteria don’t grow on it; according to the manufacturer, microbes have difficulty dividing on the surface. So, you can spray it onto a food preparation surface — butcher block or hard metal — and you have a surface that remains bacteria-free. Tests have shown that such a surface with this nano-thin, glass coating is more sanitary after merely being flushed with hot water than a comparable, non-treated surface that’s been scrubbed with bleach. And since it breathes, it can be sprayed on seeds or growing plants, making them resistant to mildew and fungus; it’s been tested in vineyards.
It’s stable and non-toxic, being made out of almost pure silicon dioxide — quartz sand. A little water or alcohol gets added as a carrier, so it can be sprayed on. Quantum forces cause the nano-glass to adhere to whatever it’s sprayed on, so you only have to treat surfaces once a year.
Applications abound. Bathroom surfaces. Kitchen surfaces. Medical equipment. Catheters, bandages, and medical implants. Construction materials; termites won’t eat wood treated with this stuff. Seeds. Cutting boards. Monuments; a thin coat slows down natural weathering. Even clothing; since glass is flexible at this thickness, you can treat a silk blouse, and then pour wine over it, and the wine will wipe right off.
The product was invented in Turkey, but a privately-owned German company named Nanopool holds the patent. We can expect these folks to get rich, as it’s clear that you’ll soon be seeing… er, not seeing… this product everywhere.
4 Comments »
Comment by RM
Very interesting post, thanks. It would be fascinating to watch the marketing strategy for this. The link says it may meet with resistance from supermarkets because they make lots of money from traditional cleaning products and may not be wild about introducing something that makes all these obsolete.
Comment by John Cooper
I don’t want to drop a Baby Ruth in the punch bowl here, but as an engineer I have some questions. The article says:
…you can spray it onto a food preparation surface — butcher block or hard metal — and you have a surface that remains bacteria-free.
This implies that the miracle glass comes in a spray can that can YOU can purchase at the supermarket. I’m wondering how the thickness of the coating is controlled. Can it be sprayed on vertical surfaces without it dripping, running, or sagging? I’m wondering how the miracle glass is persuaded to flow out in a nice, 30-molecule-layer-thick coating, and then hardening. Does it have to be heated first? Does the substrate have to be heated?
Having some experience in bonding things together, I’m also wondering what kind of surface preparation is necessary before spraying this stuff on your countertop. In order to get a good structural bond, surface preparation is everything.
When bonding aluminum, for example, the surface must be etched with phosphoric acid first.
If I had to guess, I’d say this process works in a laboratory, using a vacuum deposition process on a chemically cleaned substrate. So for now, I’m going to continue using Bam! or 409, I think.
Comment by Phil
RM, that comment in the article was written by a Public School Graduate who doesn’t know the first damned thing about ordinary business practice. No store run by a human being with an IQ higher than my waist size is going to miss selling this stuff, probably on the shelf right next to ScotchGuard — which the stores ALSO would not have sold if that mook’s theory held water. Sure, Dow Chemical and Proctor & Gamble are bound to lose some sales over this, but those companies don’t control what gets placed on supermarket shelves, now, do they?
Besides, most of the applications I mentioned are industrial, and this product promises to add to their product line and increase their value to the market. And who’s going to sandbag on new, nano-glass-treated materials if they think their competitors will be offering it next week? They’re not going to balk for a nano-second; they’re going to rush to be the first to offer the new materials to gain market advantage.
Yeah, there are always a few who try to hold onto the past, but they’re always replaced by those who didn’t. How many wagon wheel manufacturers have you seen lately?
John Cooper’s questions are good ones, and I imagine that it’s the answers to those questions that will dictate how this stuff gets marketed. He’s correct, so far all the applications have come from the lab. If the application requires anything difficult, what we’ll see is pre-treated raw materials and machinery coming pre-treated from the factory. Doesn’t matter, though, we’ll still all benefit from the new technology.
Comment by dullhammer
As Spock would say, “Fascinating”.
I feel sorry for those poor microbes, though, slipping around on that glass surface as they desperately try to get a solid footing or whatever it is they need for reproduction. Where’s PETA/Microbes when you need them?