Reports of the death of paper may be premature, as Italian researchers have developed a coating solution that can render cellulose fibers waterproof, antibacterial and even magnetic.
The reactive acrylic coating, from Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia in Genoa, combines fiber molecules with a nanoparticle solution, creating a polymer matrix that can be used on fabric, paper or membranes.
|Paper coated with nanoparticles becomes waterproof, antimicrobial and magnetic.|
The technology uses a “simple and cost-effective method” to impregnate individual fibers with a solution containing superparamagnetic manganese ferrite colloidal nanoparticles, researchers report in “Superparamagnetic cellulose fiber networks via nanocomposite functionalization,” in the Journal of Materials Chemistry.
When the fibers are wetted, a thin nanocomposite shell forms around each one, making each water repellent and magnetically responsive without changing the properties of the overall surface.
So, for example, one could still print on the paper, fold it or use it in other normal ways. The solution can be made more or less magnetic or given other properties by tweaking other components—for example, incorporating silver nanoparticles to make it antimicrobial.
Researchers foresee a wide range of applications, from food packaging and medical documents to secure bank notes, Roberto Cingolani, scientific director at the IIT, told Forbes.com. Waterproof paper could also be used to protect valuable documents, he said.
Other possibilities include magnetic wallpaper or antibacterial papers and wraps.