Nanomaterials in paints and coatings is a fast growing field of research, just recently a new corrosion-resistant steel coating made with fullerene carbon nanotubes was awarded a $100,000 grant to develop and manufacture the coatings.

The applications of nanomaterials in paints is endless and one wonders where the next development will come, at the moment you can see a whole range of applications from anti-icing coatings which have found applications in the aerospace industry to replace some more mechanical methods for de-icing plane wings and unmanned aerial vehicles, to silver nanoparticles being used in coatings within the food and medical industry to avoid contamination from mold and bacteria.

Along with silver nanoparticles scientists are also researching into the use of nano-copper, nano-zinc oxide, nano-titanium dioxide and nano-silica dioxide as additives for the protection of paints, against microbial attack and physical and chemical weathering.

At the moment it is still unknown just how useful nanomaterials will be in the protective coatings industry, for example it is already well known that over time silver can be washed out of coatings by rain, and whilst photocatalytic nano-titanium dioxide can be useful against harmful light rays, it can produce radicals which speed up the decay of the actual body of the paint. Scientists are working extremely hard to determine if the benefits are greater than the negative impact of an increase in the concentration of nanomaterials in the environment.

Just how safe are these nanomaterials used in paints, only time will tell. A lot of interest again is focusing on the safety of this new class of coating and it will be interesting to see just how far we can go in developing smart coatings for the 21st century.