By Nick Gilbert
A new coating based on nanoparticles is developed by a research team from the UPNA-Public University of Navarre for construction applications.
It is a result of the collaborative Ecofotomat project, where Obras y Servicios TEX, a construction firm, and the L'Urederra R+D Centre worked together with UPNA. The nanoparticles help to interact with light and activate a chemical reaction that prevents few air pollutants. The team has estimated that the decrease in air pollution can be 75% of carbon monoxides, 80% of hydrocarbons and 90% of nitrogen oxides.
The project uses concrete as the fundamental construction materials. TEX supplies the concrete and the necessary technical specifications on the material, while L’Urederra produces the nanoparticles that are used in the coatings. The team focused on developing a coating that resembles a paint to a maximum extent. The coating is economical, sufficiently hard to withstand the elements and can be incorporated on site. The nano-based coating also has the capability to degrade certain chemical compounds that get bonded to the surface. Thus, it prevents the spreading of fungi, bacteria and other microorganisms.
As the coating includes an inorganic material, it is tougher than coatings with an antibacterial agent. The UPNA team performed a standard test by applying a bluish ink on the concrete surface, which is later applied with the coating. When the concrete surface is exposed to the sunlight, the researchers were able to view how the ink got destroyed on the area that is treated with the nano-based coating. Their work involved development of different matrices that will be tough and cheap, because the construction market always focuses on decreased costs, lower margins and guarantees ranging from 20 to 30 years. The Ecofotomat project was partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the Spanish Ministry for the Economy and Competitiveness.