Photocatalysts–catalysts that use photons to activate chemical reactions–generally have superior oxidizing properties and superhydrophilicity. "Their high oxidative capacity can be effectively applied to decompose various organic materials, germs, bacteria, and viruses, and to prevent the accumulation of dirt," says Margareth Gagliardi, author of a new report by BCC Research (Wellesley, MA, www.bccresearch.com) titled "Photocatalysts: Technologies and Global Markets." The antibacterial, antiviral, and fungicidal properties of photocatalysts enable them to kill various types of germs including Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus, and to degrade viruses. These properties can be extremely useful in the sterilization of operating rooms, medical instruments, and other products (for example, masks and gloves).
In addition, photocatalysts have been found helpful for cancer treatment. The Center for Nanoscale Materials at Argonne National Laboratory (Argonne, IL) has studied the use of titania nanoparticles bonded to antibodies for precise targeting and destruction of cancerous brain cells under visible-light irradiation. In another example, TiO2 nanotubes with diameters between 50 and 100 nm have been used for devitalization of cervical carcinoma cancer cells under UV-light irradiation. Also dependent on UV light are titania-based photocatalysts, which have been introduced in dental products used to whiten teeth.
Medical and dental applications make up one of six markets BCC's study identified for growth.
–Barbara G. Goode