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Liquid Glass

2 February 2010 2,060 views No Comment

Your friendly neighborhood scientists are messing around with nanoparticles.  They’re doing it because materials take on new properties and even behave differently at such small sizes.  If you want to learn more about nanotechnology before we dive into liquid glass, take a look at this video from KQED:

Now let’s consider glass.  We are most of us by now fairly familiar with the material;  its primary ingredient is silica, it’s brittle, at earthly operating temperatures it tends to be fairly solid, and it loves long walks on the beach, horseback riding, and watching the sunset.  But when you (and by you I mean Turkish inventors and miscellaneous researchers at the Saarbrücken Institute for New Materials) obtain silicon dioxide (SiO2) extracted from quartz sand and add water or ethanol to taste, you can create a spray-on glass coating 100 nanometers thick that bonds to surfaces using quantum forces (Edwards).  Am I the only one picturing a distraught naval captain with a mirror in one hand and spray-bottle full of glass in the other barking, “dammit glass, it seems you’ve changed!”

Image of glass courtesy nanotechnologytoday.blogspot.com

On the plus side, “the glass is highly flexible and breathable.  The coating is environmentally harmless and non-toxic, and easy to clean using only water or a simple wipe with a damp cloth. It repels bacteria, water and dirt, and resists heat, UV light and even acids” (Edwards).  When sprayed on, say – a band-aid, liquid glass produces a surface so smooth that germs slide off like penguins on the edge of a melting glacier.  According to manufacturers, you can spray liquid glass on everything from wood (termite protection – LOVE!) to seeds (yum) to your sneakers.  It will replace all the toxic cleaning products you currently use to tidy and disinfect, and it reportedly costs about 8 US dollars. 

Okay, liquid glass is going to change the world.  So what do we have to worry about?  Is there any reason for a deep panic about this material to set in?  Er – perhaps.  One of the slightly irksome aspects of materials behaving differently at the nano scale is that we don’t know exactly how they are going to affect our bodies.  Nanoparticles can breeze in and out through our cell walls without stopping at customs, and we’re not exactly sure what they get up to while they’re visiting.  Spraying liquid glass on our food and in our houses would produce clouds of nano-spray that we would then inhale and ingest.  Because we haven’t been working with this material for long, we’re not really sure if that would be bad.  It seems like it would be bad, but you never know.  Maybe it would be good.  Tell me what you think.


Clearly this material fits in the Water category.  Liquid glass is a coating that takes on the shape of whatever material it covers.  It likes to live dangerously. 


Edwards, Lin. “Spray-on Liquid Glass is about to Revolutionize almost Everything.”  Physorg.com. 02/02/10.  Accessed 02/02/10.  URL.

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