Conventional vapor-deposition techniques for coatings require sophisticated equipment and/or high-temperature resistant substrates. Therefore bio-inspired techniques for the fabrication of inorganic coatings have been developed in recent years. Inspired by the biology behind the formation of the intricate skeletons of diatoms orchestrated by a class of cationic polyamines (silaffins) we have used surface-bound spermine, a naturally occurring polyamine, to promote the fast deposition of homogeneous, thin and transparent biomimetic SnO2 coatings on glass surfaces. The bio-enabled SnO2 film is highly photoactive, i.e. it generates superoxide radicals (O2˙−) upon sunlight exposure resulting in a strong degradation of organic contaminants and a strong antimicrobial activity. Upon illumination the biomimetic SnO2 coating exhibits a switchable amphiphilic behavior, which – in combination with its photoactivity – creates a self-cleaning surface. The intrinsic self-cleaning properties could lead to the development of new protective, antifouling coatings on various substrates.
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