Green Prophet’s brought you some of the technical advances that permit paint to act as a solar collector. Now in the news, it seems some super-paints can also sense structural degradation and filter pollution: promising potentiality exposed by new research. Meet SmartPaint: it acts as a large-scale and seamless sensor of changes occurring on the surfaces it coats, which could include everything from bridges to buildings, tunnels to wind turbines. Developed by researchers at Glasgow’s University of Strathclyde, the paint contains an integral network of carbon nanotubes capable of detecting microscopic surface flaws that precede major structural faults.
“Current technology is restricted to looking at specific areas of a structure at any given time,”said Mohamed Saafi of the university’s Department of Civil Engineering. “However, SmartPaint would cover the whole structure, which is particularly useful to maximize the opportunity of preventing significant damage,” he said in an interview with Architect magazine.
SmartPaint is sustainable to boot, made from a recycled waste product known as fly ash and highly aligned carbon nanotubes. It’s cement-like properties makes it particularly suited to harsh environments. SmartPaint is still in research and development.
Paint for cleaning the air
Global use of decorative coatings exceeded 28 billion liters last year, according to the International Paint and Printing Ink Council. It’s cheap and versatile, and it’s easy to apply.
Paint’s primary role is protection of the surface on which it’s applied. It’s the armor that separates a building from its environment. And, despite the thinness of a paint veneer, scientists are tantalized by the prospect of expanding its functionality. New technologies are making this possible.
KNOxOUT paint, which is commercially available, can make us breathe easier. According to Blaine Brownell, of Architect magazine, “Boysen’s KNOxOUT paint incorporates a titanium-dioxide additive, which neutralized physical particulates in the presence of sunlight, causing them to drop out of the air. With the claim that one square meter of the smog-busting coating can eliminate 10 cars’ worth of emissions, the company recently donated the paint to street artists in Manila, one of the world’s most polluted cities.”
And let’s go back to my Green Prophet report on Sun-Believable, the solar-energy-grabbing paint developed by a team of scientists and engineers led by Professor Prashant Kamat at the University of Notre Dame. Building on recent advances in semiconductor nanocrystal research, they’ve developed a one-coat solar paint for designing quantum dot solar cells.
“This paint can be made cheaply and in large quantities. If we can improve the efficiency, we may be able to make a real difference in meeting future energy needs,” Professor Kamat told Mashable.com.
The common compounds used to create Sun-Believable are readily available on the open market. Covering 400 square feet of roof with solar paint costs $100, traditional solar panel installation for the same area could cost a hundred times more. (Disclaimer: note that conversion efficiencies between these systems are not yet comparable).
Sexy inventions and shiny new products grab our fleeting attention. But when we take what we normally do and what we normally use and make it smarter, big improvements in green performance comes with minimal pain to our behavior and wallets.
Image of open paint cans courtesy of Shutterstock.