It sounds like something out of a householder's fantasy -
walls covered with self-cleaning paint that repels dirt and
But this new kind of paint is a reality now being tested
on the walls of research lab at the University of Miami College
of Engineering. The experimental initiative is designed to
fit into the university’s commitment towards environmental
sustainability on campus.
Dr. James Giancaspro - an assistant professor at the department
of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering - has
applied the innovative product on the walls of his lab, where
undergraduate and graduate students work.
The self-cleaning paint is an ecologically friendly product,
Giancaspro says, which has the ability to keep walls clean
and maintenance-free by repelling dirt, smog, bacteria, algae
and fungus that normally accumulates on surfaces, eliminating
toxic odours at the same time. He is currently in the process
of designing ways of monitoring the anti-bacterial, anti-pollutant
qualities of the paint.
The secret of how the paint works was discovered in the 1960s
by Dr. Akira Fujishima in Japan. He found that titanium dioxide
crystals, stimulated by ultra-violet light, could break down
the molecules found in grime and organic matter that are necessary
for bacteria to grow. This chemical process is called photocatalytic
Using energy found in the UV light, the photocatalyst titanium
dioxide can break down organic substances - such as oil grime
and hydrocarbons from car exhaust and industrial smog, volatile
organic compounds found in building materials and furniture,
as well as organic growth such as fungus and mildew.
The contaminants are transformed into non-toxic molecules
and reduced to such small quantities that they can no longer
damage the surfaces.
A photocatalyst coating can control 'sick building'
syndrome by removing volatile organic compounds emitted from
building materials, carpeting and furniture - creating a purer
space for more comfortable living and working.
Giancaspro says this 'eco-active' product was developed
by Global Engineering - the Italian company that made the
product available to the University of Miami scientist.
Although the paint is used in Europe and Asia, this is the
first time it has been utilised in the United States. Global
Engineering plans to fund research of the paint at the University
of Miami, which may lead to development of the product for
the US market.