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Nanotechnology is a step too far for surface care

Nanotechnologies may be a hot topic in the surface treatment industry at present, but the jury is still out when it comes to their effectiveness and safety

Francesco Pettenon is Fila Surface Care Solutions’ managing and commercial director.
Francesco Pettenon is Fila Surface Care Solutions’ managing and commercial director.

You might have noticed that nanotechnology products have been somewhat of a hot topic in the surface treatment industry of late. Whenever Fila introduces its surface protection solutions to new clients, they ask us whether we are using nanotechnologies.

Most of the time, they believe that nanotechnologies are the most efficient technologies, but this assertion remains unproven. Nanotechnologies are certainly trendy, but that does not make them better at protecting surfaces.

When it comes to surface protection, I believe in technologies that have proven their effectiveness and, most importantly, their safety. After all, human beings have to handle these products; we are the ones living in the vicinity of treated surfaces in our daily lives.

The term nanotechnology is used generically to indicate the manipulation of matter at a DNA radius. In other words, we’re talking about things that are really, really small. These units are measured in nanometres, which are a billionth of a metre in size and, on average, 10,000 times smaller than the diameter of a hair.

Because of their incredibly miniscule size, nanoparticles have triggered a series of debates, especially in terms of their impact on the environment and public health. And it’s important to note that some study results will make you think twice before choosing to use nanotech products.

Firstly, research shows that their size enables them to access cells and tissues directly and, therefore, enter the bloodstream and the central nervous system. Engineered nanoparticles are also, generally speaking, chemically coated. This makes them potentially hazardous, especially for living beings.

And if that isn’t enough to make you doubt the appropriateness of using such particles, their inherently small size makes them not only more mobile, but also more chemically reactive. In turn, nanoparticles are potentially more unstable and difficult to manipulate than larger units of matter.

In contrast, micrometric particles are 1,000 times bigger than nanoparticles, yet only half the diameter of a hair, on average. Though tiny, micrometric particles are not able to enter the tissues of the human body and, as a result, they are safer.

Within the context of surface care, their proportions are consistent with the porosity of materials like stone, porcelain, and terracotta. As such, they are able to penetrate a tile’s pores perfectly adequately without endangering the people who are applying the surface protection, or those living next to the surfaces.

In short, micrometric particles are just the right size to protect stones and living beings at the same time. Why risk endangering ourselves by using nanoparticles to protect surfaces when this can be achieved in a way that is perfectly safe and effective?

Microtechnology is based on established knowledge, and has been documented by researchers over several decades. It is the science that is used by many leading companies, including Fila, and has already proven its effectiveness.

Fila’s own system, Fila Micrometrics Technology, allows for the production of extremely stable and safe formulae that can be constantly checked to control their reliability. This mature technique tests particles not only in terms of their effectiveness, but also in relation to duration and resistance, and the innumerable variables that affect them.

In conclusion, I firmly believe that – as an industry – innovation is the key to our success. That is why we are constantly researching new products and approaches to surface care and maintenance. However, unless an innovation has been proven safe for humans and non-hazardous, it should not be implemented.

For me, embracing safe science and proven techniques provides the best arena in which to develop and improve surface care products.

Francesco Pettenon is Fila Surface Care Solutions’ managing and commercial director.

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Construction Week - Issue 725
Jan 19, 2019