Dr. Roberto Cingolani, Scientific Director at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) in Genoa, Italy and his team have created a nanotechnological process that makes paper waterproof, magnetic, antibacterial without modifying any basic properties of the paper. Meaning this isn’t some chemical monstrosity, it’s just still paper you can print and draw on, recycle or make a paper airplane. 
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Waterproof paper
How did they do it? Remember, IIT is the creator of iCub, the first open source humanoid platform and the thin end of the wedge for understanding human cognition and artificial intelligence.** So it isn’t a surprise that Dr. Cingolani would take nanotechnology down a similar path, applying science to things we use every day. 

The new process is based on getting the single molecules (monomers) in paper or other non woven materials to connect with specific nanoparticles that form to create a polymer which is then dispersed in a solution.

The final compound is a polymeric matrix that includes nanoparticles. This nanotech process - mixing monomers with different types of nanoparticles — lays the foundation for other things to happen when it is applied to the paper. If you add iron oxide nanoparticles to the polymer matrix, it’s magnetic paper; silver nanoparticles give you antibacterial properties. 

Picture
Paper fibers enveloped by the polymer
The new process is based on getting the single molecules (monomers) in paper or other non woven materials to connect with specific nanoparticles that form to create a polymer which is then dispersed in a solution.

The final compound is a polymeric matrix that includes nanoparticles. This nanotech process - mixing monomers with different types of nanoparticles — lays the foundation for other things to happen when it is applied to the paper. If you add iron oxide nanoparticles to the polymer matrix, it’s magnetic paper; silver nanoparticles give you antibacterial properties.

After the compound is created, it can be injected into any non woven material like fabrics or papers and is applied by rolling, dipping or spay coating the fabric or paper. But remember, it doesn’t create a surface over the paper, it creates a soft 3D shell around each fiber of the paper. This is nanotechnology afterall.

“The properties of the paper are not changed in any way and the paper is still printable,” said Dr. Cingolani “The properties of nanoparticles are transferred to the material making it either waterproof or antibacterial, even florescent if you wanted.” 

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Example of fluorescent paper fibers
Dr. Cingolani adds that through the discovery of this process and applying different nanoparticles to the compound you could create self cleaning and fluorescent paper as well.

“Antibacterial paper is potentially important for the food packaging and medical applications,” adds Cingolani. “Fluorescent and magnetic paper could be used for security and bank note/currency protection or other similar documents. Waterproof paper could be used to protect cultural heritage documents.”

Yes, it’s only paper, but the new process can also be applied to other paper products like books, magazines, newspapers, paper money and wallpaper.Imagine a wall paper that resists bacteria and could cut down on the spreading of germs from a doctor’s office waiting room during cold and flu season. 

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