Imagine being able to coat almost every surface — from your dressiest coat to the seat on your loo — with an invisible, ultra-thin layer of glass that protects against dirt, stains, mould, fungus, ultraviolet light, weathering and even graffiti.
Sounds too good to be true? Well, you might soon have a chance to test the technology for yourself, when Nanopool brings its spray-on and wipe-on liquid glass products to the UK commercial market.
Already available in Germany, Nanopool’s products use silicon dioxide nano layering technology to coat surfaces with a 100-nanometre thick layer of glass (visualise a layer that’s 1/500th the width of a human hair). While it’s nanoscale, the protective coating doesn’t include engineered nanoparticles, which some worry is a health and environmental hazard. In fact, Nanopool has twice won the Green Organisation’s Green Apple Award for “their imaginative work with organic materials” (PDF).
What sort of organic materials? Nanopool says its liquid glass coating — which is flexible, food safe and even breathable — can help seeds germinate more quickly, protect grape vines from mildew (less than 1 per cent affected versus 100 per cent affected in one test) and cover corks to prevent wines from going bad.
The invisible liquid glass is also lending protection to Kemal Ataturk’s mausoleum in Turkey and a McDonald’s restaurant in Austria, and is now being tested in hospitals, trains and hotels in the UK. In future, it might even help prevent infections by providing an antibacterial coating to medical devices like stents, catheters and sutures.
What’s the secret to this unique liquid glass?
“In essence, we extract molecules of SiO2 (the primary constituent of glass) from quartz sand, and then we add the molecules to water or ethanol,” says Neil McClelland, the UK project manager for Nanopool. “Unfortunately, as they say in the movies, if I told you any more … “