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Say goodbye to the car wash, self-cleaning cars are coming

Car washes may become a thing of the past, because researchers at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) have developed a new coating that can make cars impervious to water, dirt and superficial scratches.

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Although automakers are continuously perfecting exciting new technological gadgets for your vehicle's interior, it seems that basic exterior features are often overlooked. For example, have you ever envisioned a vehicle that does not require washing? Well, you may be in luck because researchers at the Netherlands’ Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) have developed a self-healing vehicle coating, which seems poised to revolutionize the automating industry, as we know it.

Dr. Catarina Esteves and her team of researchers at the department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry at TU/e are responsible for creating the new technology. According to Dr. Esteves, the nano-capsule coating features a chemical compound that is capable of reorienting themselves in the event of minor surface damage. Simply put, the chemical groups can rearrange themselves when scratched, thus providing a solution to superficial surface damage. Bear in mind, the coating will not repair scratches that penetrate beneath the exterior surface.

Aside from being scratch-resistant, the new coating paves the way for the first ever “self-cleaning car.” Dr. Esteves claims dirt and debris will simply wash away when it rains, eliminating all trips to the car wash. The occasional rain shower is all drivers will need to keep their vehicle looking showroom ready for long periods of time.

While similar coatings have been offered in the past, Dr. Esteves’ is unique in the fact that is does not lose its self-healing properties over time. Dr. Esteves’ has developed a way to keep the nano-capsules working indefinitely, therefore keeping the surface cleaner for longer. Specifically, Dr. Esteves’ nano-capsules contain special “stalks,” which are mixed throughout the coating. Each stalk contains special chemical groups responsible for self-repair.

Not only beneficial to the auto industry, Dr. Esteves states that her new scratch-proof coating can also be used on cell phones, solar panels, aircrafts, and contact lenses.

Dr. Esteves and her team plan to further develop the product with other leaders in both the academic and industrial circles. The first coating is expected to be ready for production within six to eight years. Although it will not be available for at least six years, Dr. Esteves claims that prices will still be comparable to today’s coatings. In the meantime, car owners will have to make a trip to the car wash or opt to grab the old bucket and sponge.

The results of Esteves work were published in the July 17 edition of the scientific journal Advanced Materials.

Source: Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e)

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