Nanotechnology Developments in Paint Show Promise

Nanotechnology-enhanced paints and coatings are already on the market. Several companies have collaborated to create a paint product that containes no toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and which has the additional functions of stopping algae and fungal growth while also destroying bacteria the come in contact with it (link). The initial application is intended to be doctor’s offices, clinics, and hospitals, but I am sure there will be other uses such as biological laboratories and even breweries and wineries, where the intrusion of unwanted microorganisms can cause serious production and quality problems. A Wired magazine article from February of 2006 detailed a variety of other nanotechnology applications in the area of paint and coatings (link). Paint manufacturer Behr is now selling a line of kitchen and bath paints that resist stains and mildew (link), and giant Dupont is getting into the act with paints that cure in seconds under ultraviolet light and have enhanced properties (link).  In October 2007 Industrial Nanotech announced a line of nanotech-enhanced, thermally insulating paints that have the interesting property of generating electricity from the difference in temperature between the two sides of the surface they are coating (link).  These new products are just a beginning, however.

More sophisticated developments in paint can be expected as nanotechnology matures. One of the big problems with maintaining painted wood structures is that once moisture penetrates the wood it can damage it before it can be dried out, and moisture that gets behind a 99% painted surface won’t dry out quickly enough to avoid dry rot and destruction of the wood itself. Could a more sophisticated nanotechnology-enhanced paint not only penetrate the fine cracks in the existing paint, but change water molecules encountered in the wood to stop the damage process? Could nanobots identify and change molecules that are the result of damage to the wood? Could they link together to form a strong matrix, anchored into the damaged area, and restrengthen the wood while preventing further incursion of moisture?

Other materials besides wood could benefit from nanotechnology-enhanced paint. One of the problems in handling and storage of raw steel products is surface rust, which must be removed before the steel can be painted for its final use. Could a nanotechnology-enhanced spray coating automatically spread out to coat all surfaces of the steel exposed to air and moisture, de-oxidize surface rust to convert it back into something much closer to the original iron or steel, and then be easily removed when the metal needed to be cleaned and coated for its final use?

More advanced nanotechnology really sounds like science fiction, but could be of great benefit. In a previous entry I wrote here titled “Will Nanotechnology Provide Us Black Houses That Generate and Store Electricity?” I speculated on self-assembling nanotechnology paints that integrate solar cell technology into the paint, and include a back layer that comprises a battery where it can store the electricity generated.  On the scale at which paint can be manufactured and applied, this could be a much lower cost way to provide alternative electricity generation than currently-expensive solar panels.  I priced a solar panel out and ran calculations on line (link) to see how long it would take to pay it off at my current electrical rates, and the time involved was nearly 50 years.  That would be very hard to justify.  I do have to paint my house every so often anyway, however, and economies of scale in the paint business can be enormous, so I speculate that much more sophisticated paint systems may be available within a decade or two.  It looks like we will need them.

As always, I welcome your comments.  – Tim


12 responses to “Nanotechnology Developments in Paint Show Promise

  1. I’m an entrepreneur in the space – which of the solar coatings have you seen that pique your interest?

  2. Thanks for your comment, John. Unfortunately I don’t see much action on solar coatings out there. In my previous blog entry, mentioned above, I conjectured on where solar coatings that generate electricity (as opposed to coatings to protect silicon solar cells) might lead in future decades.
    Other than that, some google searching turns up the following coating and film-type solar technologies (below), but it is disappointing that I don’t see them in my town yet (on on my roof), and that they are starting with such small applications. Certainly I am sure they can make money supplying portable cellphone charging panels to the third world. There is a market there with real demand, but I fear that implementation on a large scale in the currently-petroleum-addicted developed countries will be far too slow. It is hard not to be impatient in view of the rising and highly volatile oil prices, and the often-passive but strong resistance to alternative energy sources coming from the big energy corporations.
    NANOSOLAR: Thin, Flexible Solar-cell Coating, December 4, 2007, by Jorge Chapa
    Solar Cell Rollout, 2004, Technology Review published by MIT
    inkjet-printable Solar Panels… Really!, August 23, 2007 Jayne Poynter and
    printable carbon nanofiber solar cells
    Konarka – inkjet-printed solar cells and solar power generating fabrics
    G24 Innovations, small and flexible printed-film solar panels

  3. Greetings, Tim
    For some time, I have had a notion that nanotechnology could somehow be combined with interior house paint in an effort to provide better detection of smoke and carbon monoxide. Most deaths in home fires are a result of non functioning smoke detectors (often due to batteries having been removed). Your comment about laying in a nano-battery back layer makes me think such a paint could be “plugged in” to the electric grid of a house, and , if nano-tweaked a bit more, could be its own audible alarm as well. Or, given that the entire paint surface would be a working battery, individual alarm units could be stuck anywhere on that surface, providing the home owner (business operator, apartment complex manager, etc) with a more safe environment.
    Would this work??

    Dave in Milwaukee

  4. Great ideas, Dave. I see no reason why something like that couldn’t be made to work.
    Once we’ve mastered nanotechnology to a greater degree, and can build microscopic machines for various purposes, power requirements for data-related functions will be greatly reduced, and sophisticated interconnection schemes or more-probably wireless technology could allow a smoke detector, for example, to get all the power it would need from wall paint that would generate electricity from ambient light and store it in its layers. There are many great things to be invented, and I hope more people become aware of how much fun that can be (as well as profitable if one’s ideas can be built and commercialized).
    Thanks for your comment, and please keep thinking and contributing. – Tim

  5. May i know who is your dealer here in the Philippines? If none, may i know what is your requirements.

    Best regards,
    Nilo B. Hisita

    • Hello Nilo,
      Since I wrote this 11 months ago, and am not a consumer of nanotechnology products (except sunscreen) I suggest you follow the links in my article and see where they take you. Some searching of the internet should get you information on what is available today, as well.
      Good luck – Tim

  6. Hello Tim,

    Please take a look at Bioni intelligent coatings and give me your impression. It’s Nano-technology done slightly different. What sets it apart is the use of silver particles.


  7. Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

  8. Hi!!!
    I liked your blog..
    It is really informative…
    Could you please give me some information on industry standard for nanotechnology paint???

    • While I doubt there are any published standards for nanotechnology paint, nanotechnology in general is very poorly understood, and safety standards are seriously needed. A lot more research is needed to determine the risk of ingesting nano-scale particles of different materials and, beyond that, the impact of functioning nanodevices on the human body and biological organisms in general. It has already been shown that the titanium dioxide nanoparticles used in modern sun screens are so small they can actually enter the body via the lining around the eye and travel all the way to the brain through neurons. That has scary implications until the research is done and standards and protective measures can be devised. In general, though, there are no formal standards, and corporations and individuals are free to do things with nanotechnology that may be extremely dangerous, but few are aware of any risk. I encourage you to search on the web – there is an organization concerned with standards and safety, and I remember writing about them briefly last year, but I don’t have a bookmark for them at present. Good luck, and thanks for your comment.

  9. This is a very useful information for my husband who is going to re-paint our home this weekend. In doing so, he bought gallons of insulating and heat reflective paints from because he is convinced that using such paints to re-paint our home’s roof, interiors and exteriors will help us save energy and reduce our heating and cooling cost. As a housewife who deals with budgeting my husband’s monthly income, I think any kind of saving is worth the trouble.

  10. Sometimes I wonder how much energy would be saved if I and one out of 5 of my neighbors across the state painted our roofs white … Is there a reason everyone isn’t doing this??

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s