The Latest Byte Logo
Featured Image

Beyond the Surface: Is Nanotechnological Paint Safe?

By: Carla Chinski

Twitter: @@carlachinski

Post Date: 2024-02-08

The Making of Nanotechnological Paint


The practical applications of nanotechnological paint are as diverse as they are impactful, addressing needs across various sectors with innovative solutions. Nanomaterials change properties according to scale, which means that not all applications are considered safe by the scientific community. However, there are some lesser-known ones we will be delving into, such as the benefits provided by nanotechnology for the healthcare industry. Regulatory frameworks affect both the possibility of these applications from reaching the larger public; however, they also ensure that they are viable and safe for use.


There are new legislations that put nanotech for health and disease prevention into question by way of ecosystemic balance, forcing researchers to seek new alternatives, which has led to more research on bio-repulsive coatings that do not kill bacteria. Materials that allow for controlled substance release and bio-hazard repulsion in marine ecosystems have proved that nanotech has a lot to offer. 


More concretely, the production of nanotechnological paint is a sophisticated process that hinges on the integration of nanoparticles into traditional paint formulations. These nanoparticles, typically ranging from 1 to 100 nanometers in size, impart transformative characteristics to paints, enabling them to respond to environmental stimuli or exhibit unique, independent features. Nanotechnology produces paints and coatings of improved quality and better resistance to the passage of time, stopping or preventing the formation of mold and bacteria. They are also easily cleanable and, when not preventing bacterial formation altogether, they act against bacterial resistance. 

Key nanomaterials such as titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and silica are employed due to their unique properties fostered by their large surface area. 


This attribute leads to a higher surface-area-to-weight ratio, offering unparalleled efficiency compared to conventional paint additives. Moreover, the incorporation of advanced nanomaterials like carbon nanotubes and graphene lends additional properties like increased strength and electrical conductivity, expanding the scope of applications. Each technology comes from different nanomaterials: UV resistance from zinc oxide; hydrophobic particles are made by using alumina; the applications go on. 


This new era of high-performance, multi-functional coatings responds to higher industry demands for durability, reproducibility, easy application and cost-effectiveness, tailored surface morphology, and environmental friendliness (Joseph et. al., 2011). 


Industries Benefiting from Nanotechnological Paint


Nanotechnology-based paint is a specific form of nanocoating. The transformative impact of nanotechnological paint, specifically, spans multiple industries, with aerospace, defense, and healthcare reaping significant benefits. They have proven to be especially useful due to “their large surface-to-volume ratio and their specific structural characteristics such as shape and size.” (Sathya Priya et. al.)


In the aerospace and defense sectors, the stakes are exceptionally high, necessitating materials that can withstand extreme conditions. Nanotechnological paint, with its enhanced durability and resistance to harsh environments, is proving invaluable. 


These coatings, fortified with nano-additives, provide unmatched resistance to wear, tear, and corrosion, significantly boosting aircraft safety and efficiency. Secondly, the healthcare industry benefits particularly from the antimicrobial properties of nanotechnological paints. In environments where cleanliness and hygiene are paramount, such as hospitals and clinics, these paints play a crucial role in maintaining sterile conditions. The application depends largely upon a given nanomaterial’s functionality and properties at a nano-scale, as we’ve said.


Many medical devices, such as catheters, can spread infection quickly, while also causing other patients to be prone to intra-hospital infections from “patient zero.” One of the most significant applications is in creating antimicrobial surfaces. These paints, infused with nanoparticles like silver or copper, can effectively inhibit the growth of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. In hospitals, for example, their application on walls, doors, and other high-touch areas has led to a noticeable reduction in infection rates. 


A case study at City Hospital revealed a 30% decrease in surface-borne infections after implementing nanotechnological paints. “Various nanomaterials are being studied for emergent antimicrobial properties and are being used for the design of the next generation of therapeutics and biomaterials,” experts Taylor and Webster state (2011). Other applications include bone cement, dental materials, and bio-repellent wound dressings.


In the realm of energy efficiency, nanotechnological paints are making strides with their reflective properties. Incorporating nanoparticles like carbon dots, these paints enhance solar energy absorption and conversion. An innovative example is their use in photovoltaic cells, where they've increased efficiency by up to 15%. 


A less-talked-about application is resistance to heat and adverse environments, which also come at a time when environmental challenges and natural disasters are proving costlier for ecosystems. When applied, this could have the potential to reduce costs from damage and disaster recovery. 


The Technology Behind Antimicrobial and Reflective Properties


The groundbreaking properties of nanotechnological paint—antimicrobial and reflective—are underpinned by sophisticated scientific principles and advancements in nanotechnology.

The antimicrobial feature of this paint is primarily enabled through the incorporation of nanoparticles like silver or zinc oxide. These particles release ions that are lethal to microorganisms, disrupting their cellular processes and preventing their growth and spread. This technological innovation is pivotal in environments where hygiene is critical, offering a long-lasting, self-sterilizing surface.

On the energy-sourcing front, the reflective properties of nanotechnological paint are enhanced by materials such as graphene nanoplatelets. These particles are known for their exceptional thermal and electrical conductivity. The inclusion of such materials in paint formulations improves light absorption and heat dissipation, leading to more efficient solar energy capture and utilization.


While the potential of nanotechnology is immense, it also raises important ethical and safety concerns. “To date, most green nanotechnologies are only conducted on a laboratory scale. Initiatives are necessary to evaluate the feasibility of adapting the existing technologies to commercial-scale production. The financial and regulatory barriers due to the unclear toxicology of nanomaterials may be the greatest hurdles for most green nanotechnologies,” one article states. 


The manipulation of matter at such a small scale can have unforeseen consequences, both environmentally and in terms of human health. Research in nanotoxicology is critical to understanding and mitigating these risks. As nanotechnology becomes more prevalent, it is essential to develop comprehensive safety protocols and regulations to ensure its responsible use. These technological insights reveal the complex interplay of nanoscience and material engineering behind the extraordinary capabilities of nanotechnological paint, paving the way for more innovative and sustainable solutions in various sectors.

Share this article

Want to stay up to date? Join our newsletter!