Volume 36, Issue 12, December 2001

Technology

Self-Cleaning Homes May be the Next Construction Industry Trend
antibacterialhouse
An antimicrobial compound covers the steel used in the country’s first antibacterial home.

First Toledo, Ohio-based Pilkington released its self-cleaning Activ™ glass, followed soon after by Pittsburgh-based PPG’s SunClean™ and now AK Steel of Middleton, Ohio, is adding to the cleanliness trend by taking part in the building of the country’s first antibacterial home. Located in Santa Susanna Knolls, Calif., the concept home will be outfitted with antimicrobial steel. The company says this new technology is mold-resistant, and will be used in heating, ventilation, air conditioning ductwork and areas such as doorknobs, handrails and faucets that are subject to frequent touching.

According to AK Steel, the steel used is coated with an antimicrobial compound from AgION Technologies that is said to reduce growth of bacteria such as fungi, molds and yeast. The way in which the coating works involves the release of silver ions from the antimicrobial compound to the surface of the steel which inhibits the growth of bacteria. AgION says that with the coating, treated surfaces should be free of antimicrobial contamination within three to four hours.

Other companies jumping on the self-cleaning bandwagon include Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Guardian Industries, Paris-based Saint-Gobain and Indiana, Pa.-based Gorell Windows and Doors, along with several other window and door manufacturers that will begin offering their glass industry counterparts’ self-cleaning products.

Guardian’s latest invention is RainBan™ hydrophobic glass coating, which the company says repels water and ice from vehicle windshields, sidelites and backlites. The coating is applied at the factory during fabrication. The company expects the coating to soon be available on a variety of vehicles and on replacement windshields for a limited number of heavy trucks.

Saint-Gobain’s new line of self-cleaning glass products, Saint-Gobain Aquaclean, is coated with a transparent layer of a hydrophilic mineral. When water comes into contact with the glass, it spreads across the coating and generates a washing effect before evaporating, according to the company. The self-cleaning layer is integrated into the glass at the fabrication stage. 

Gorell Windows & Doors will begin offering PPG’s SunClean self-cleaning glass in 2002. “We think this is an option that consumers will appreciate,” said president and chief executive officer Wayne Gorell. 

While the economy appears to be slowing, Pilkington expects its self-cleaning glass innovation to keep it flying high throughout 2002. And with Saint-Gobain’s recent announcement of its Aquaclean Pilkington says it is planning a full commercial launch of Activ for next year. An analyst has reported that Saint-Gobain’s self-cleaning product launch may limit the price that Pilkington can set for its “more complex product, which has photocatalytic properties not found in Aquaclean.”

Not All Bugs Are Bad Bugs
In a recent edition of Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, researches found that microbes in the upper 300 meters of the earth’s oceanic crust ate their way through rock, including particles of glass.

According to the researches, “traces of this process are preserved in the glassy margins of underwater lava flows.” 

The research explained that super-cooled lava, which is spewed by underwater volcanoes, is glass. Hubert Staudigel, one of the paper’s co-authors of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego said the microbes “may possibly drill their way into the rock to derive nutrients from the glass. 

No word yet on whether the microbes will eat flat glass as well.

Scientists Invent New Non-Reflective Glass
Scientists at Tongji University in Shanghai, China, have invented a film-like glass that is said to block computer-generated radiation and eliminate the sort of reflections that make reading a computer screen under fluorescent lights difficult.

“The invention holds much promise for solving many everyday inconveniences,” said Shen Jun, director of Tongji’s modern physics laboratory and chief of the research project, which was funded by a grant of 4 million Yuan ($481,928 USD) from the state of Ministry of Science and Technology. Shen, along with five other scientists, have spent the past nine years developing the glass film.

Like ordinary glass, which is made of large blocks of silica, the film-like glass is made of silica particles, which are said to be as “small as a dozen atoms that still have ‘space’ between them.” According to Shen, the particle and the space between them deflect radiation and ultraviolet light.

Department of Energy Releases Energy Use Simulation Program
To help contractors, architects and other construction professionals better optimize building performance, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has released a free building energy-use simulation program. 

The program, EnergyPlus, which can be downloaded from the DOE’s website, can calculate the impacts of different heating, cooling and ventilating equipment, as well as various lighting and window types, to maximize building efficiency and comfort. According to the DOE, EnergyPlus simulates the effects of window blinds, electrochromic glazing and daylighting systems.

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