Medieval stained glass windows acted like nano air purifiers

August 22nd, 2008 - 3:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Aug 22 (IANS) Stained glass windows in churches dotting Europe and painted with gold purified the air when lit up by sunlight, according to Queensland University of Technology experts. “For centuries, people appreciated only the beautiful works of art, and long life of the colours, but little did they realise that these works… are also… photocatalytic air purifier with nanostructured gold catalyst,” said Zhu Huai Yong, of Queensland’s School of Physical and Chemical Sciences.

Tiny gold particles, energised by the sun, were able to destroy air-borne pollutants like volatile organic chemical (VOCs), which may often come from new furniture, carpets and paint in good condition, he said.

“These VOCs create that ‘new’ smell as they are slowly released from walls and furniture, but they, along with methanol and carbon monoxide, are not good for your health, even in small amounts,” he said.

“Gold, when in very small particles, becomes very active under sunlight.

“The electromagnetic field of the sunlight can couple with the oscillations of the electrons in the gold particles and creates a resonance.

“The magnetic field on the surface of the gold nanoparticles can be enhanced by up to hundred times, which breaks apart the pollutant molecules in the air.”

Zhu said the by-product was carbon dioxide, which was comparatively safe, particularly in the small amounts that would be created through this process.

He said the use of gold nanoparticles to drive chemical reactions opened up exciting possibilities for scientific research.

“This technology is solar-powered, and is very energy efficient, because only the particles of gold heat up,” he said.

“Once this technology can be applied to produce speciality chemicals at ambient temperature, it heralds significant changes in the economy and environmental impact of the chemical production.

He described glaziers in medieval forges as the first nanotechnologists who produced colours with gold nanoparticles of different sizes.

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