Five of the most exciting new advances in paper and pulp, from wallpaper that blocks Wi-Fi to a test that can detect cancer
Paper has a great number of advantages when it comes to communication – it’s portable, light, accessible and easy on the eye. But great strides are being made in medicine, technology and construction using this most humble of materials. People may have been reading and writing with it for over two thousand years, but it seems that paper has a lot more to offer.
Sappi in North America have been developing a paper that inhibits the growth of bacteria, which would be a huge advantage in any medical setting, from hospital walls to the inside of an ambulance. The Sharklet paper mimics the surface of a shark’s skin, which naturally slows the growth of algae, and is able to make surfaces resistant to bacteria without toxic additives or chemicals. The secret is in the texture of the paper, which is a diamond-shaped micropattern with elements around one-tenth the size of a red blood cell.
“Scientists in France have created a wallpaper that can keep your Wi-Fi signal inside your home”
One of the most common ways for hackers to get into your devices and online accounts is through your Wi-Fi network, so scientists in France have created a wallpaper that can keep your Wi-Fi signal inside your home. Called Metapaper, the paper selectively filters electromagnetic waves, allowing through cellphone signals while preventing your Wi-Fi network from leaving the home. At a time when people are becoming more and more concerned about internet security, it seems paper could hold the key to your privacy.
Portable Zika test
Carried by mosquitoes, the Zika virus is threatening to become a worldwide epidemic, with areas of South America particularly hard hit. The virus can cause birth defects if contracted by a pregnant woman, so early detection is vital to minimise any harmful effects. A team at Harvard University have recently developed a system of freeze-dried synthetic gene circuits embedded within paper discs that change colour when exposed to a blood sample containing the Zika virus. Since many cases of Zika are found in remote jungle or rural areas, this simple and quick test means that potentially hundreds of thousands of people can be diagnosed and treated, reducing the threat of this devastating virus.
Cancer detecting tool
A large amount of work is being done with paper in the medical world. The fact that it’s inexpensive, lightweight and easily transportable in large numbers makes it ideal in developing countries. One of the main areas of research is in the use of embedded nanoparticles that can detect a range of diseases – in some cases, cancer. It works using nanoparticles, which are injected into a patient and travel to the tumour site. If the tumour is cancerous, the interaction produces biomarkers which can be detected in the patient’s urine, changing the colour of a paper test.
Using pulp to prevent wood from catching fire may not sound like the smartest idea, but researchers at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland have found that microscopic cellulose fibers obtained from wood pulp can create a highly effective flame-retardant coating for wood-based buildings. The nanocellulose coating works because it has ten times the solid content of similar materials, and so creates an airtight barrier that prevents oxygen from reaching the wood’s surface.
Source: Two Sides