In a new research, scientists at the Tel Aviv University (TAU) have made a breakthrough in assembling peptides at the nano-scale level, which could lead to the development of a window that washes itself.
Operating in the range of 100 nanometers and even smaller, graduate student Lihi Adler-Abramovich and a team working under Prof Ehud Gazit in TAU’s Department of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology have found a novel way to control the atoms and molecules of peptides so that they “grow” to resemble small forests of grass.
These “peptide forests” repel dust and water — a perfect self-cleaning coating for windows or solar panels which, when dirty, become far less efficient.
Using a variety of peptides, which are as simple and inexpensive to produce as the artificial sweetener aspartame, the researchers create their “self-assembled nano-tubules” in a vacuum under high temperatures.
These nano-tubules can withstand extreme heat and are resistant to water.
“We are not manufacturing the actual material but developing a basic-science technology that could lead to self-cleaning windows and more efficient energy storage devices in just a few years,” said Adler-Abramovich.
Coated with the new material, the sealed outer windows of skyscrapers may never need to be washed again.
The TAU lab’s material can repel rainwater, as well as the dust and dirt it carries.
The efficiency of solar energy panels could be improved as well, as a rain shower would pull away any dust that might have accumulated on the panels.
It means saving money on maintenance and cleaning, which is especially a problem in dusty deserts, where most solar farms are installed today.
The lab has already been approached to develop its coating technology commercially.
“This is beautiful and protean research,” said Adler-Abramovich. “It began as an attempt to find a new cure for Alzheimer’s disease. To our surprise, it also had implications for electric cars, solar energy and construction,” he added.