This paint promises to clean itself — and improve the air we all breathe

An experimental paint uses sunlight to clean itself and fuel chemical reactions that absorb and neutralise pollutants.

A fresh coat of paint can do wonders to spruce up the look of a facility, but a new brand of paint promises to clean up more than just the walls. Austrian chemists have developed a new type of paint that, when activated by sunlight, not only cleans itself, but starts to absorb dangerous pollutants from the air.

Photocatalytic paint contains nanoparticles that, when exposed to UV light, react with pollutants to make them break down, theoretically preventing staining and removing them from the air. These pollutants currently cause damage and staining to buildings, as well as being potentially harmful to human health. On coming into contact with the paint, these pollutants are converted into less harmful substances such as carbon dioxide and water.

While these paints have been around for a while, this new study is the first to demonstrate that ordinary sunlight is enough to trigger the paint’s self-cleaning — and air-purifying — qualities. One of the study’s authors told Scientific American that hopefully the paint would be able to do its work without any external prompting. 

“It is better to be able to use solar light to activate, as the paint can work passively, by itself,” said Antonio Nieto-Márquez Ballesteros, a chemist at the Technical University of Madrid.

ISSA senior director Dr. Gavin Macgregor-Skinner says the study adds to years of research on using paint products that could clean themselves and remove pollutants from the air. It remains to be seen whether this new innovation of activation by sunlight will prove effective outside the lab.

“This recent research produced a paint using recycled materials such as titanium scrap from industry and fallen tree leaves as organic waste. The research was conducted in a laboratory with a controlled environment, so a critical next step is to determine how this paint performs in real-world conditions,” Macgregor-Skinner says.

There are already commercially available paint products that can absorb and neutralise chemicals and pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and volatile organic compounds. Paint products can also kill bacteria, viruses and mould; remove odours; repel dust and dirt; and help improve indoor air quality.

“The purpose of paint products such as this one is to create a difference to human health and well-being in the built environment. They can also be used to refurbish old houses and buildings,”Macgregor-Skinner says. 

If successful, this self-cleaning paint could further strengthen links between the cleaning industry and the environmental sector. Air pollution is considered one of the world’s largest environmental health threats. Worldwide people tend to spend approximately 90 percent of their time in different indoor environments. As people spend most of their lives in indoor environments, this has a significant influence on human health and productivity.

“If you live to the age of 80 years, then that’s 72 years you have spent indoors,” Macgregor-Skinner says.

Photo by Theme Photos on Unsplash

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required