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Home > Press > Scientists develop low-cost, 'green' antimicrobial paint

Abstract:
Rice, CCNY research appears in March issue of Nature Materials

Scientists develop low-cost, 'green' antimicrobial paint

Houston, TX | Posted on January 22nd, 2008

Researchers at Rice University and the City College of New York (CCNY) have developed a low-cost, environmentally friendly technique for embedding antimicrobial silver nanoparticles into vegetable oil-based paints. The research, which is available online and slated to appear in the March issue of Nature Materials, could provide homes and workplaces a new defense against germs via the application of a fresh coat of paint.

"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 study co-author Pulickel Ajayan, Rice's Benjamin M. and Mary Greenwood Anderson Professor in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science.

Silver's antibacterial properties have been known for thousands of years, and silver nanoparticles offer superior antibacterial activity while being non-toxic. However, coatings containing antimicrobial agents have failed commercially in the past due to their complex, multi-step preparation methods and high cost of production.

The CCNY-Rice team developed a "green chemistry" approach to synthesize metal nanoparticles in common household paints in situ without using hazardous reagents and solvents.

"We extensively worked on poly-unsaturated hydrocarbon chain-containing polymers to devise a novel approach to nanoparticle formation," said lead author 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 nanoparticles in situ in the oil medium.

"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," added co-investigator Ashavani Kumar, a postdoctoral research associate at Rice.

The nanoparticle embedded coating can be applied like traditional paints to such surfaces as metal, wood, polymers, glass, and ceramics. The metal nanoparticles show characteristic color but avoid the use of short shelf-life organic pigment paints.

In addition, these coatings exhibited efficient antibacterial activity toward Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus). The antibacterial property is important for hospitals and other public buildings that are prone to bacterial growth, a main cause of infection and disease.

"We have been working on developing various in situ methods for organic soft matter-mediated metal nanoparticle synthesis," said Praveen Kumar Vemula, one of the investigators. "However, to date, the present approach is the smartest as it is devised based on utilization of naturally occurring process."

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About Rice University
Rice University is consistently ranked one of America’s best teaching and research universities. It is distinguished by its: size—2,850 undergraduates and 1,950 graduate students; selectivity—10 applicants for each place in the freshman class; resources—an undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio of 6-to-1, and the fifth largest endowment per student among American universities; residential college system, which builds communities that are both close-knit and diverse; and collaborative culture, which crosses disciplines, integrates teaching and research, and intermingles undergraduate and graduate work. Rice’s wooded campus is located in the nation’s fourth largest city and on America’s South Coast.

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