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December 10, 2012

Self Healing, Self Cleaning Car Paint? Closer Than You Might Think



self-healing coating
 
Self-Healing Coatings
We could soon see vehicles that wash themselves. New polymer resin development suggests self cleaning cars will be available by 2020. The technology is evolution of self healing paint, first developed by car maker, Nissan.
While engineers have not perfected the flying car, we could soon see vehicles that wash themselves. New polymer resin development suggests self cleaning cars will be available by 2020. The technology is evolution of self healing paint, first developed by Nissan.

While the initial reaction to self-healing paint was subdued, advancements by Case Western Reserve University and the Netherlands’ Eindhoven University (TU/e) of Technology are digging below the surface of exactly what automotive coatings can do.

Nissan hit the market in 2005 as the first company to utilize self healing paint. Known as Scratch Guard Coat, the clear paint works in two ways. First, the paint contains highly elastic resin that helps prevent scratches from penetrating beyond the clear coat. Secondly when the clear coat is scratched, the resin’s elastic properties works to mend the gap. The process takes between one and seven days, depending on the temperature and depth of the scratch. Scratch Guard Coat is effective for about three years after application.

In 2009, researchers upped the ante on self-healing paint by developing paint that can heal itself when exposed to intense UV light. Researchers at Case Western Reserve University teamed up with domestic and international groups to create a polymer-based material that can “heal” when placed under ultraviolet light for about a minute.

The secret? Unlike conventional polymers – which are continuously chained together -- the self-healing polymer is made up of smaller molecular chains held together by metal ions. The metal ions act as “molecular glue”. When exposed to ultra-violet light, these structures essentially become unglued, allowing them to move around and fill scratches. When the light is removed, the molecules re-attach and the paint is now “healed.”

car wash


Up Next - Self-Healing Paint That Repels Water

The technology to create water resistant coatings has been around for a while, but the practical application of this technology has been limited. Using current technology, water-repellent surfaces are are easily and irreversibly damaged, which makes them hard to justify from a cost-benefit perspective.

However, researchers at the TU/e Chemical Engineering department have essentially combined self-healing and water repellent technologies. The polymer works by placing functional chemical groups at the end of special “stalks”. The stalks are mixed throughout the coating, and if the coating is scratched, the stalks can re-orient themselves to fill in the damage. Their study was published earlier this year in Advanced Materials.

TU/e researchers say that their development could be enable the creation of highly water-resistant self healing paint. Since water typically “carries” dirt and other grime onto a painted surface, water-repellent paint would essentially be self-cleaning.

According to TU/e’s chemical engineers, this self-healing, water-repellent paint could available for production within six to eight years, and researchers believe that pricing for advanced self healing and self cleaning coatings will be comparable to existing coatings.

In other words, there may come a time when you miss going to the car wash.


By Gib GoodrichSubscribe to 33rd Square

Author Gib Goodrich writes about automotive technology for Honda Parts Online, a website offering replacement Honda parts at wholesale prices. Visit HondaPartsOnline.net to learn more.


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