Would you coat a living plant in glass to keep it free of fungus? What about coating a counter in glass to keep it sterile? It sounds highly unusual, but the German company, Nanopool, is about to market liquid glass that can be sprayed onto virtually any surface to keep it clean and bacteria-free.
The product is almost pure silicon dioxide (glass is made from silica) plus some water or ethanol, depending on its ultimate use. When applied to a surface, the coating is super thin, about 500 times thinner than a human hair, which makes it invisible and keeps it flexible and breathable. According to the Nanopool, any surface -- house, car, floor, counter, even clothing -- can be coated with the liquid glass. And the coating repels bacteria, water and dirt, and resists heat, ultraviolet light and acid. That would render cleaning products almost useless, since all you'd have to do is wipe the surface clean with a damp cloth.
Nanopool has even tested the liquid on vines to keep them free of mildew and fungus.
The company says the spray is non-toxic and that the are no added nano-particles, resins or additives -- the coatings bond due to forces that keep molecules together.
I was skeptical about this, so I called up Andrew Maynard, the chief science advisor to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies in Washington, D.C.
"Silicon dioxide is a fairly innocuous substance," he said. And from just the initial news, "there are no warning flags that would indicate that you have an unusual health risk."
"My biggest concern is when you’re actually applying it," he said. "It will be released into the air and people are going to inhale it."
That health risk could be on par with any other product that is sprayed.
"This all comes down to making sure the manufacturer provides information that is good enough for people to use it safely," said Maynard.
According to the company's web site, the spray-on glass will be available in the U.K. starting in early 2010.
WATCH VIDEO: Nanotech Rewards. Andrew Maynard, chief science advisor for the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, talks to Jorge Ribas about the technology's risks.