To date latex emulsion paints have relied on the addition of soaps or similar materials to overcome the polymer parts of the paint's aversion to water, stabilize the paint, and make it work. The University of Warwick chemistry researchers led by Dr Stefan Bon have found a simple way to individually coat the polymer particles used in such paints with a series of nanosized Laponite clay discs. The discs effectively create an armoured layer on the individual polymer latex particles in the paint. The clay discs are 1 nanometer thick by 25 nanometers in diameter.
The Lapointe clay discs can be applied using current industrial paint manufacture equipment. They not only provides an alternative to soap but can also be used to make the paint much more hard wearing and fire resistant.
The process devised by the Warwick team can be used to create highly sensitive materials for sensors. The researchers can take closely packed sample of the armoured polymers and heat it to burn away the polymer cores of the armoured particles leaving just a network of nanotech sized connected hollow spheres. This gives a very large useful surface area in a very small space which is an ideal material to use to create compact but highly sensitive sensors.