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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Amazing New Technology

A new nanotechnology has recently been featured in various science pages that could revolutionize whole industries, including brewing. Here's a description from The Independent, which had the most comprehensive article I found:
A non-toxic spray invisible to the human eye that protects almost any surface against dirt and bacteria, whether it is hospital equipment and medical bandages or ancient stone monuments and expensive fabrics....

But true it is. The spray is a form of "liquid glass" and is harmless to living things and the wider environment. It is being touted as one of the most important, environmentally-friendly products to emerge from the field of nanotechnology, which deals in objects at the molecular end of the size scale.

The secret of liquid glass is that it forms an ultra-thin film between 15 and 30 molecules thick – about 500 times thinner than human hair. On this nanoscale – a few millionths of a millimetre thick – liquid glass turns into a highly flexible invisible barrier that repels water, dirt and bacteria, yet is resistant to heat, acids and UV radiation but remains "breathable".
If the technology is as versatile as the articles I've seen suggest, the applications are almost limitless. The article mentions that corks treated with the material would not be subject to fungal contamination, so no more "corking." And when I read this paragraph, I instantly thought of all the mash tuns getting hosed down with hard-core chemicals:
Similar tests by food-processing firms in Germany have shown that sterile surfaces treated with liquid glass are just as clean and free of microbial contamination after being washed in hot water as untreated surfaces washed in the usual way with strong bleach, and the antimicrobial effect continued over many months.
One of the reasons the brewing industry isn't so earth-friendly is because of all the water breweries use. This tech could save a lot of water in cleaning. So much in dealing with beer is making things are clean--beer lines, kegs, breweries themselves. Lots and lots of possibilities. But for the biggie, check out how it might be used in agriculture:
This led to tests on vines showing that treated plants are more resistant to a fungus that attacks the grapes. Seeds coated with liquid glass are less likely to be be attacked by fungal spores and germinate and grow faster than untreated seeds, probably because they do not waste energy fending off the microbes
Would it also work against powdery mildew on hops? Aphids? The mind boggles. Let's hope the reality is as good as the hype.


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