Home › magazine › european reports › Poland promotes nanotechnology
Poland promotes nanotechnology25th of October 2011
A Polish company has been among the first in the cleaning sector to apply metallic nanoparticles in its chemicals – writes ECJ reporter Marek Kowalski.
Nanotechnology is a branch science and materials engineering dealing with nanostructure and nanomaterials production ranging in size from 0.1 to 100 nm. The name itself is derived from the Greek ‘nanos’ – ie, dwarf or midget, and hence a nanometre is a unit equal to one millionth of a millimetre. To provide you with a comparison, an average bacterium is 500 nm to 2mm big.
The breakthrough technologies in the development of nanotechnology can be those employing nanoparticles of some metals, due to their unique properties eg, silver, gold or copper. Nanotechnology encompasses many aspects of life. But let's focus on those nanotechnology applications which have proved useful in the cleaning industry. Let us start with nanoparticles of silver.
Silver, besides being a precious metal, is also included in the list of trace elements indispensible for human life. It is characterised by ultimate electrical and thermal conductivity. It not only has powerful bactericidal, virocidal and fungicidal properties but also stimulates the growth and development of human cells. It can be used as an indoor disinfectant, also for furniture, equipment as well as humans. It is absolutely harmless to humans and the environment, and as such can be also effectively applied for cosmetic, medical and disinfecting purposes.
We all know about that already but what does it have to do with nanotechnology? Quite a lot. Above all, in order to effectively exert influence on microorganisms, it is necessary to get them in touch with the atoms on the surface of the metal. With big 'pieces' of silver it is obviously quite difficult. All the atoms inside cannot take part in the process. The situation can be improved if the same 'piece' is broken into particles of several nanometre in size. Then the active surface is millions of times bigger and so is its effective influence upon germs. Metals, including silver, are built of particles (flakes) called crystallites, which in turn are composed of 100's up to 1000's of atoms.
For many years scientists have attempted to achieve metallic nanoparticles. Yet most techniques invented make use of electrochemical or chemical methods applying mainly silver nitrate. Overall, these are all methods known for centuries. Due to their application microparticles of ions of silver Ag+ can be obtained. In recent years there have been reports of the emergence of germ strains resistant to ions of silver due to their chemical reaction with cell structures.
Anyway, in that case the bacteria are not able to develop protective mechanisms against non-ionic metallic silver nanoparticles as they are chemically passive and their reaction is limited to physical response only. Therefore, the method of non-chemically obtaining metallic nanoparticles, including silver, which was developed in the USA at the end of the 90s by a Polish physicist, was a major breakthrough in obtaining metals in the form of nanoparticles.
The first cleaning industry application of metallic nanoparticles obtained in the patented technology of the Polish physicist came about in the form of NanoClean chemical products produced by Daunpol of Warsaw. So the dynamic development of the cleaning industry in Poland may get some international recognition.