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Earth Science

Spray-On Liquid Glass 293

bLanark writes with news of a new substance that can be sprayed on for a durable, easy-to-clean film on almost any substance, hard or soft. The liquid glass is essentially pure silicon dioxide, and it goes on in a layer 15 to 30 atoms thick. It is breathable and flexible, but waterproof and resistant to bacterial growth. The patent is held by a German company, Nanopool, which is in discussion with many parties about a wide range of uses: keeping public spaces sanitary, keeping restaurants clean, and keeping cars or trains clean. "The spray forms a water-resistant layer, meaning it can be cleaned using only water. Trials by food-processing companies showed that sterile surfaces covered with a film of liquid glass were equally clean after a rinse with hot water as after their usual treatment with strong bleach."
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Spray-On Liquid Glass

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  • by nomadic ( 141991 ) <> on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @06:07PM (#31001872) Homepage
    Urban legend. Glass is an amorphous solid.
  • by EvanED ( 569694 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [denave]> on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @06:13PM (#31001914)

    Wikipedia disagrees. []

    In particular, the myth that glass in older houses is thicker at the bottom because it flowed definitely seems to be just that -- a myth:

    If medieval glass has flowed perceptibly, then ancient Roman and Egyptian objects should have flowed proportionately more but this is not observed. Similarly, prehistoric obsidian blades should have lost their edge; this is not observed either (although obsidian may have a different viscosity from window glass). ... If glass flows at a rate that allows changes to be seen with the naked eye after centuries, then the effect should be noticeable in antique telescopes. Any slight deformation in the antique telescopic lenses would lead to a dramatic decrease in optical performance, a phenomenon that is not observed.

  • Re:winshield repair? (Score:5, Informative)

    by smellsofbikes ( 890263 ) on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @06:18PM (#31001992) Journal

    Can I now avoid costly windshield replacements by simply spraying this stuff on my windshield after a ding storm, or crack?

    The problem with having a crack isn't the divot where the crack started, it's the leading end of the crack. When you apply stress to a material that has a crack, the force per unit area at the tip of the crack approaches infinity, so what you have to do to keep the crack from spreading is increase its area. That's why windshield repair people drill holes at the ends of the cracks and then fill them.

    Even if your intent is just to fill the much smaller divots in the glass, 30 molecules thick isn't going to make much difference. What you need is a material that has roughly the same index of refraction as the glass, that you can spread over the divots like makeup.

  • by resistant ( 221968 ) on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @06:22PM (#31002030) Homepage Journal

    I saw this news item as well, albeit at PhysOrg [], which has linked a few interesting related articles. From the comments, it struck me that a concern is indeed the possibility that stray particles from applying this stuff might get into your lungs or on your eyes, causing all sorts of problems since it apparently binds well to organic substances. Also, one wonders what happens if the coating is degraded on food-handling surfaces. Do fragmented microparticles rip up your insides after being carried into your body within contaminated food?

    Even with these concerns, of course, I'd love to test this stuff on various less risky surfaces, such as bathroom tiles and shop tools, with appropriate respiratory and eye protection. Being able to use it on a kitchen countertop would just be a welcome bonus if it turns out to be safe for that use after all. (As an aside, I think that use wouldn't breed resistant bacteria since it simply discourages any bacteria at all from growing on the protected surfaces).

  • Re:Very sweet (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @06:27PM (#31002096)

    It is not referring that you can snort or sniff the substance

    Breathable in relation to permeable
    This allows air to pass through while being too compact to allow water drops to enter.

  • No information (Score:5, Informative)

    by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @06:28PM (#31002108) Homepage

    Anybody else notice that the article has essentially no information on what the stuff is? One thing that it isn't is "we extract molecules of SiO2, and then we add the molecules to water or ethanol," which is what the article tries to imply-- you can't just "add" molecules of silicon dioxide to water, nor to alcohol. So, just exactly what is it?

    The actual press release from which this article seem to have been drawn is here [].

  • Re:Think bigger (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @06:35PM (#31002184)
    Dream on.

    While it might make a nice coat for the paint job, it is likely that a glass coating is not very suitable for parts that undergo sharp mechanical stresses, like the suspension.

    But more to the point: undercoats in general have been found to be a bad idea. They tend to encourage destructive corrosion wherever they are compromised, while parts without such an impermeable waterproof coating will rust more gracefully.
  • Re:Anti-graffiti? (Score:3, Informative)

    by pz ( 113803 ) on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @06:36PM (#31002200) Journal

    I wonder if this could help make graffiti removal easier. Spray this on a clean road sign, and then just wash it with water if it gets tagged. Sure could help new drivers in Los Angeles.

    The New York Subway system has been reportedly using teflon coating for exactly this reason for a very long time. Urban pinheads -- ah, I mean artists -- determined to make their mark despite the paint-shedding properties of teflon discovered that you can scratch the surface instead, thus creating what's called scratchiti, a horrible, far more defacing version of graffiti.

  • Re:New? Really? (Score:4, Informative)

    by reverseengineer ( 580922 ) on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @06:47PM (#31002300)
    Products like Knot Wax are more like a plastic shell than a glass shell. The process takes two parts because first a coating of a resin is laid down (usually either a polyepoxide or polyurethane), and then an amine is applied to cross-link the resin molecules, leading to a very tough coating. The product discussed here appears to be a solution of short chains of silica, which when applied deposit actual glass on the surface. I'm curious about the strength of such a coating; there doesn't not appear to be any suggestion that the glass is bonded to the surface by anything stronger than van der Waals forces.
  • Re:Meh (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @06:47PM (#31002302)
    Part of the reason for this is that water tends to act almost like a "catalyst", encouraging cracks in glass to spread much more rapidly. According to an article in Scientific American, water causes glass to crack more easily because when a water molecule enters the crack, a reaction occurs in which a silicon-oxygen bond at the crack and an oxygen-hydrogen bond in the water are cleaved, creating two hydroxyl groups attached to silicon. As a result, the length of the crack grows by the size of one bond rupture. The water reaction reduces the energy necessary to break the silicon-oxygen bonds, thus the crack grows faster.

    Theoretically, any strong material that will fill the crack and prevent moisture from entering should stop the cracking process. I don't see why a film of silicon dioxide would not work as well as resin.
  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @06:59PM (#31002432)

    we pour a gallon of that crud down the sink to kill 16 germs. not that a strong base like bleach is great for mother earth either.

    Uh... OK.

    So, first of all, silicon dioxide (the subject of the article) is soluble in strong bases. So it won't take long for your "strong base" to dissolve this stuff away. Or any strong base. Heck bird poop would probably suffice.

    Secondly, bleach is primarily an oxidizer, secondarily it is somewhat basic but not impressively so. Perhaps you're thinking of some other strongly basic solution you pour down the drain, like, maybe lye based drain cleaner?

    Thirdly as far as mother earth vs sodium hypochlorite, its ridiculously unstable and decomposes away before it even hits the sewage treatment plant. I suppose that by Environmentalist Religion "original sin" doctrine it is bad, in that everything any human does is always inherently bad. But compared to most things poured down drains, bleach is rather harmless. You can drink it when highly diluted as a water purifier.

    It "sounds good", but it indicates a lot of weird ideas about basic chemistry (basic, get that pun?)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @07:23PM (#31002650)

    Actually, chlorine bleach (NaOCl - sodium hypochlorite) breaks down to NaCl (salt) and H2O (water), and O2 (Oxygen).

    As far as industrial cleaners go, it's pretty much as good for the environment as you're going to get.

  • Re:winshield repair? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Turken ( 139591 ) on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @07:41PM (#31002854)

    Actually, "play sand" is still almost entirely silicon dioxide, just like "regular sand."

    The only difference is that the play sand has been washed and screened so that it has less dust and a more uniform grain size. The fact is, "toxic" silicon dioxide is all around us, and we all breathe some amount of it in every single day. Silicosis only becomes an issue for people that breathe in large amounts of it on a regular basis - i.e. people who work 40+ hours a week in fine-dust-generating industries. If the silicon dioxide found in "regular sand" was truly a health hazard, then every beach in California would be outlawed (or at least coated in warning stickers) telling you to keep away. Hasn't ever happened, and never will, since casual exposure from playing in sand is not a silicosis hazard in any way.

    Another thing to consider is that given the typical chemical makeup of rocks and sand is that if it were even possible to remove all the "harmful" SiO2 from sand all you'd be left with was a fine dust of metals and trace elements which would be harmful if played in.

  • by nomadic ( 141991 ) <> on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @07:42PM (#31002866) Homepage
    Doremus, R. H. (1994) Glass Science, 2nd Edition. John Wiley & Sons, New York, 339 pp. ISBN 0471891746, disagrees with web page man.
  • Re:Ouch (Score:3, Informative)

    by Arthur Grumbine ( 1086397 ) on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @07:58PM (#31003070) Journal
    I think you're suffering from a lack of sense of scale. Here's something to help []. Zoom down to the ribosome level to get a sense of "30 atoms thick".
  • Re:winshield repair? (Score:3, Informative)

    by FrigBot ( 1459361 ) * on Tuesday February 02, 2010 @09:51PM (#31004164)

    There's another difference between "play sand" in a sandbox, and "regular sand:" The urine content.

  • by Zapo_Verde ( 1406221 ) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @02:57AM (#31006684)
    It seems like people often confuse antibacterial agents with antibiotics. Antibiotics you have to use correctly in order to prevent breeding super germs. The point of an antibiotic is to kill the germ without hurting the person receiving the antibiotic. It generally takes a few days/weeks for the antibiotic to wipe out an infection. Antibacterial soaps and solutions will never create super-germs because they are the equivalent of a nuclear bomb to germs. These are never used internally because they will kill your body's cells as easily as they kill the bacteria. For countertops or handwashing they are perfect though because they are effective sanitizers. A few seconds/minutes is enough to kill the germs.
  • by Duggeek ( 1015705 ) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @04:13AM (#31007154) Homepage Journal

    That's all nice and well, but it's over-simplifying the problem.

    Laminated glass is actually two layers of tempered glass; one on the inside and another on the outside. The laminate (plastic sheet) is sandwiched between the glass layers. You can brush-up on it here [].

    A crack doesn't normally form on its own with such glass, except in extreme heat/cold situations. The most common cause of cracks in tempered-glass laminates is “punctures” from high-speed flying debris. The puncture occurs as the debris breaks the outer glass layer. Even if the laminate isn't punctured, the inner glass may crack from the impact.

    A crack will form over a span of time—sometimes days, sometimes months—due to a combination of environmental extremes and torsion strain. These cracks form in both panes of glass simultaneously, since a crack in one half leads to a structural vulnerability in the other half. The crack will eventually “race” paths across the windshield until it finds an edge. Such cracks are not inherently dangerous, but the windshield is no longer as strong as it should be.

    So, there's two problems with this proposed spray-on “fix”: (1) The fluid may not actually penetrate into the crack, and even if it does, the laminate prevents it from filling to the other side; and (2) the dust, particles and residues would become permanently trapped in the shallow layer, only to reflect more light and make the windshield worse than before. (like dust/smears you can't wipe off)

    Best solution; just take your windshield to an on-the-spot crack repair. They use a pressurized applicator that injects fluid at the original “puncture”. It's cheap, it saves you from replacing the windshield in a year, and many comprehensive insurance policies actually cover it.

    As for the “liquid glass”, the purposes listed in TFA sound utterly sensible; a surface treatment that's easy to disinfect, durable and practically germ-proof. I can't wait to have my counter-tops done!

  • by jbeaupre ( 752124 ) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @11:57AM (#31010632)

    Antibacterial soaps and solutions will never create super-germs

    Those chowderheads at the CDC must not have figured that out yet: []
    But give them time, and they will see the wisdom of your words.

  • Re:winshield repair? (Score:3, Informative)

    by sjames ( 1099 ) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @02:28PM (#31012910) Homepage Journal

    Actually, the fine dust is what causes silicosis, not the grains you find on the beach. The more fine dust there is in it, the worse for you it is. That's why sand blasting requires protective gear and throwing sand around in the sandbox doesn't.

    A nano-particle spray is going to be much worse than the dust from sandblasting.

    That's the elephant in the room for the various nanoparticle consumer products, just about any solid turned into a fine dust will destroy your lungs. The only thing special about asbestos is that the fibers have a natural tendency to break into tiny particles. If not for that, it would be harmless.

    To make matters worse, nano-size particles can potentially go from lungs to bloodstream, then cross the blood-brain barrier. Many substances are only safe (in small quantities) because they don't reach the brain.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @06:15PM (#31015736)

    Cheaper and safer than using chlorine gas.

    That is a matter of scale.

    The water treatment plant at which I work treats between a hundred million and a quarter of a billion gallons of water per day. We purchase liquefied chlorine gas in railcars. Bleach would cost far more.

    The only reason bleach is cheaper for your utility is because maintaining a chlorine gas system of any size is an expensive overhead cost which vastly outweighs the fact that bleach is much more expensive, in terms of cost per volume of available active chlorine.

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