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Medieval Churches: Solar-Powered Nanotech Pioneers

stained glass

As I recently discussed, sometimes we need to look to the past for solutions to our current problems. Queensland University professor Zhu Huai Yong has done just that, noting that painting glass windows with gold particles can purify the air.

Zhu came across this realization after studying medieval painted church windows, which were often decorated using glass colored with gold nanoparticles.

Though people likely did not realize it at the time the churches were built, the sun-energized nanoparticles destroy air-borne pollutants, as sunlight creates an electromagnetic field that resonates with the gold particles’ oscillations.

While CO2 is a byproduct of the filtering process, it only occurs in small amounts and is not as harmful as volatile organic compounds that the nanoparticles destroy.

Zhu’s discovery isn’t just trivia fodder—the researcher believes that it could be applied to produce specialty chemicals at room temperature that are both cost-effective (despite the high price of gold) and have minimal environmental impact.

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Written By

was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a senior editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine, and more. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.

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