Clean Up with Nanotechnology - dummies

By Earl Boysen, Nancy C. Muir, Desiree Dudley, Christine Peterson

Nanotechnology is already being used in various cleaning products to make your life easier and have less environmental impact.

Companies are looking into using nanoparticles in soap that make it work better while producing less environmentally harmful byproducts. For example, EnviroSan Products offers a product called Solution 2000, and Nano Green Sciences produces a cleaning product called Nano Green.

Both products contain organic nanoparticles, called micelles, which range in size from 1 to 4 nanometers in diameter. Several micelles bond to grease molecules, tying up all the atoms in the grease molecules that are attached to a surface, such as your countertop. After these micelles latch on, you can easily wipe away the grease molecules.

Some companies, such as AltimateEnviroCare Services and EcoActive Surfaces, are using titanium oxide nanoparticles as part of a film that uses the energy in light to kill bacteria on surfaces. Titanium oxide nanoparticles are called photocatalysts because of their capability to use energy in light to start the chemical reaction that kills the bacteria.

OxiTitan is a spray that coats a surface with zinc nanoparticles and titanium dioxide nanocrystals. This coating reacts with water in the air to break water down into oxygen and hydroxide ions. These ions then react with bacteria, viruses, volatile organic compounds, and mold, turning these organic molecules into carbon dioxide and less harmful organic molecules.

A graph showing how OxiTitan reduces bacteria on surfaces.
A graph showing how OxiTitan reduces bacteria on surfaces.

Some companies are using antibacterial materials that contain silver nanoparticles. Daido Special Steel Corporation has developed at spray called HGT Nano Silver Photocatalyst that is a combination of silver nanoparticles and titanium dioxide nanoparticles. This product performs when light is available, with the silver nanoparticles enhancing the photocatalytic performance of the titanium nanoparticles.

However, because silver nanoparticles kill bacteria even when light is not available, the treated surface will have antibacterial properties even in the dark. At this time, the product is available only in Japan.

Photocatalytic nanoparticles breaking down bacteria.
Photocatalytic nanoparticles breaking down bacteria.

Note that there is interest in regulating the use of silver nanoparticles. The concern is that when silver nanoparticles are released, they may harm useful bacteria in groundwater, such as lakes.