Washington, November 25 : University of Warwick researchers say that they have developed a process whereby small particles of polymer can be easily and cheaply covered with a silica-based nanoparticles.
Lead researcher Stefan Bon, a chemist at the university, said that the final result from the new process would come in the shape of a highly versatile material that could be used to create a range of high performance materials-such as self healing paints, and clever packaging that can be tailored to let precise levels of water, air or both pass in a particular direction.
He describes this process as a "soap free emulsion polymerization process" that makes colloid particles of polymer dispersed in water, and in one simple step introduces nanometre sized silica based particles to the mix.
The silica-based nanoparticles, about 25 nanometre in size, then coats the polymer colloids with a layer "battering" it almost like a fish can be battered in bread crumbs.
Bon has revealed that the process results in the creation of a very versatile polymer latex product, which can be used to create scratch resistant paints in which the scratches heal themselves.
He says that the material can even be fine tuned to produce polymer-based packaging, which will allow water or air to pass through the packaging in tailored ways.
The resultant rough textured spherical shapes also lend themselves to the creation of sheets with polymer that present much more surface area than usual allowing more efficient interaction with other materials.
When the researchers exposed the material to a second simple step that deposited another polymer layer on top of the already silica based nanoparticles "battered" polymers, they were able to produce particles with an even greater range of properties and uses.
The team believe that industrialists will be interested not just in the versatility of the end product, but also in the ease and cost effectiveness of the process because it dramatically reduces the time needed to create materials that are currently used in industrial equipment.