A group of researchers at Tel Aviv University have just published details of a breakthrough in assembling peptides at the nano-scale level that could make this a mass produced product within just a few years. [Adler-Abramovich et al., nature nanotech., doi:10.1038/nnano.2009.298]

Operating in the range of 100 nanometers the scientists have found a novel way to control the atoms and molecules of peptides so that they “grow” to resemble small forests of grass.

These “peptide forests” repel dust and water — a perfect self-cleaning coating for windows or solar panels which, when dirty become less efficient.

As with many great discoveries the original research started out as a possible cure for Alzheimer’s disease. To the scientists surprise, it may also have implications for electric cars, solar energy and construction.

Using a variety of peptides, which are as simple and inexpensive to produce, the researchers create their “self-assembled nano-tubules” in a vacuum under high temperatures. These nano-tubules can withstand extreme heat and are resistant to water.

The lab has already been approached to develop its coating technology commercially. And Prof. Gazit has a contract with drug developer Merck to continue his work on short peptides for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease — as he had originally foreseen.