Italian scientists have invented a process by which nanoparticles form a polymer that binds with paper fibers to create new forms of paper that can either be waterproof, magnetic, or antibacterial.
The new paper, reports Jennifer Hicks in Forbes, is still paper — one can write on it, fold it, and print with it — but it has additional qualities, depending on one’s needs. If iron oxide nanoparticles are added to the polymer matrix, the paper will be magnetic. If silver nanoparticles are added, the paper will have antibacterial properties.
Once the compound is created, it can be injected into any non-woven material like fabrics or paper. It is applied by rolling, dipping, or spray-coating the target material. The application does not create a coating over the material; it forms a wrapping or shell around each fiber.
“The properties of the paper are not changed in any way and the paper is still printable,” says Dr. Roberto Cingolani, scientific director at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, whose team created the process. “Antibacterial paper is potentially important for food packaging and medical applications.”
Adding different nanoparticles to the compound could create self-cleaning and fluorescent paper, Dr. Cingolani says. “Fluorescent and magnetic paper could be used for security and bank note/currency protection or similar documents,” he adds. “Waterproof paper could be used to protect cultural heritage documents.”
The process can be applied to books, magazines, newspapers, paper money, and wallpaper. An antibacterial wallpaper would be useful in doctor’s offices to prevent the spread of germs.
Source: “Nanotech Scientist Creates Waterproof Magnetic, Antibacterial Paper,” Forbes, 4/15/12
Image by Shawn Campbell, used under its Creative Commons license.
Dale McGeehon has been a journalist and editor for more than 25 years, covering chemical regulation and testing for Pesticides and Toxic Chemical News and innovations in material sciences for the National Technology Transfer Center. His writing credits include Omni and College Park magazines and The New York Times.