Kiss My Glass: Incredible Spray-On Glass Makes World Shiny

The messy, messy world could get significantly cleaner soon – that is, if a product called Liquid Glass is more widely adopted. The flexible, breathable glass is 500 times thinner than a human hair and can be sprayed onto just about anything to make it stain- and microbe-resistant. Surfaces coated in Liquid Glass – technically known as “SiO2 – ultra-thin layering” – are easy to clean without chemicals and will resist mildew, making Liquid Glass an ideal item to have around the house. Because it’s undetectable and flexible, it can even be used on textiles. Nanopool, the German company behind the product, says that a single coating of the stuff could potentially last for several years.

Unfortunately, it’s not yet widely available outside of Germany. It has been used in some commercial applications, such as hospitals and museums, and should be available for widespread retail purchase in the UK in early 2010. No word from the company on when it will hit the US or the rest of the world.

So of course spray-on glass sounds cool, but how does it work? Nanopool is understandably tight-lipped about the exact workings of the material. They will say that molecules of SiO2 (the main component of glass) are extracted from quartz sand and added to a base of water or ethanol. When sprayed onto surfaces, the material bonds through quantum forces, not with the addition of resins or other additives, making it safe even for agricultural use to inhibit mildew growth. It seems pretty likely that the next time you walk into an unusually clean and shiny building or buy a stain-resistant garment, it’ll be thanks to Liquid Glass.

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See more in New Materials or under Science. February, 2010.