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Foul odours foiled by Florida nano-tech team

posted 7 Nov 2010, 08:09 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 7 Nov 2010, 08:11 ]

Researchers at the University of Florida have developed an odour killer they say is five times more effective than anything on the market. The substance comprises microscopic nano-particles that the scientists say, could be applied as a coating or a spray to make bad smells disappear.

MARSEILLE, FRANCE. REUTERS - Last month more than 900 tonnes of garbage piled up on the streets of Marseille as garbage collectors went on strike. Citizens had no choice but to pick it up themselves. They wore plastic sheets to cover their clothes and masks to cover their faces - all in an effort to avoid the reeking stench.

But researchers at the University of Florida in Gainesville say they could have provided a far more effective solution. The team has developed a nano-sized particle they say can kill the most vile of odours.

Brij Moudgil is a professor of particle engineering and the lead researcher on the project.

"There are quite a few of the powders or materials that will mask the odours. In our case, we were much more interested in killing the odour at its source." he said.

Mougdil is referring to the tiny molecules that produce all odours. Some of the most unpleasant smells are created when organic compounds break down and release volatile chemicals, like sulphur. An example of such sulphurous stench comes from feces. The odour is produced when bacteria break down food during the digestion process.

Moudgil and his team have designed a particle hundreds of times smaller than a single grain of sand. The particle is made of silica that is coated with tiny bits of a copper compound. The copper compound acts as a catalyst which decomposes and neutralises any foul smelling odour molecules it touches.

"So what it does is the odour molecules come to copper sites and they get decomposed there. That is how the odour is killed.", he said.

The researchers say their particles are five times more effective than anything currently on the market and would last ten times as long. Moudgil says that a chef can avoid smelling like the food he's cooking by having his clothes coated with the particles.

In aerosol form, the particles could also be applied to a baby's diaper or a trash can.

Graduate student, Amit Singh, says the team has declared war on bad smells .

"Odour is our enemy and we have an army of soldiers. So the more we have the better we are . So when we are talking about nano, we can create these tiny soldiers to kill odour molecules." said Singh.

Singh says, because his "soldiers" are so small, trillions could be deployed in a toilet or bathroom to fight stench without anyone knowing.

Singh and Moudgil hope to see their nanokillers becoming commercially available in the next five to six years but, already they say, they feel flush with success.

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