For the longest time we have asked, “What if these walls could talk?” Well, in the not to distant future, your walls and all your painted surfaces may be able to do just that. Don’t panic. Your secrets will still be safe – except if you’re keeping them on one of your numerous hackable, digital devices. But we digress. Paint that yields information, or smart paint, is among the latest up and coming innovations from the world of science and technology. In theory the smart paint when applied to surfaces of structures could give clues as to the soundness of those structures. Are there cracks, rust spots or leaks? Smart paint could diagnose these issues more reliably than current methods.
Photoluminescence map from single-wall carbon nanotubes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Research and development of smart paint is being conducted at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland. In reality, the paint is more like a cement, made by mixing fly-ash with carbon nanotubes, along with some other chemicals. What is fly-ash, you ask? It’s a waste product from coal burning power stations. When it’s all combined into paint, the resulting compound is tough, able to take a weather beating – and still keep sticking? The nanotubes in the paint conduct electricity. Weak points in a structure would cause disruptions in an electrical field, indicating that something is wrong with the structure. Through structural mapping and measuring, along with complicated scientific stuff, it would be possible to diagnose weak points in say, a bridge, a building or more. Once such science makes into common usage, possibilities could be endless.