Anti-microbial paints that are low cost and environmentally friendly have been developed by researchers at the City College of New York (CCNY) and Rice University. This paint could give homes and workplaces a defense against germs.
For developing the new "green" paints, the researchers embedded antimicrobial silver nanoparticles into vegetable oil-based paints.
The use of silver is important in this case as the element has had known to have antibacterial properties from thousands of years. In fact, silver nanoparticles offer superior antibacterial activity while being non-toxic as well.
The nanoparticle embedded coating can be applied like traditional paints to such surfaces as metal, wood, polymers, glass, and ceramics.
The process for developing this paint involved no use of hazardous reagents and solvents, with the research team using a "green chemistry" approach to synthesize metal nanoparticles in common household paints.
"We extensively worked on poly-unsaturated hydrocarbon chain containing polymers/oils to devise a novel approach to nanoparticle formation," said Dr. George John, Professor of Chemistry at CCNY.
Polyunsaturated hydrocarbons undergo auto-oxidation-induced cross-linking, which is similar to lipid peroxidation, the process by which fatty acids are oxidized in biological systems.
During this process a variety of chemically active species called 'free radicals' are generated. These were used by the group as a tool to prepare metal nano-particles in their original form in the oil medium.
"The simplicity of the process and economics should allow us to commercialize these paints as a versatile coating material for health and environmental applications" said Dr. Pulickel M. Ajayan, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Houston-based Rice University.
The antibacterial property is also important for hospitals and other public buildings that are prone to bacterial growth, a main cause of infection and disease.
"Using the same approach, we should be able to produce a large variety of nano-particle dispersions useful in applications ranging from healthcare to catalysis," said co-investigator Dr. Ashavani Kumar, a postdoctoral research associate at Rice University.