New technology may make self-cleaning cars a reality

Washing the car is always a pain, but thanks to a new coating developed by researchers at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), that may not always be the case. This new coating seems to improve on the already-existing technology for scratch-resistant coating, giving it new properties that help to repel water and dirt (and scratches, for that matter) more effectively. Of course, scratch-resistant and water-resistant coatings have been around for a few years now, but thanks to this new development, they may have many more applications in the future.

The problem with current coatings is that, while they're effective, they don't always remain that way for long. The nano-sized molecular groups that make up the coatings are easily damaged when they come in contact with the surface they were applied to, which means that before long, the coating could lose its properties. Researcher Catarina Esteves and her team at the department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry at TU/e have come up with a solution to this problem by attaching the coating's functional chemical groups to what they call "stalks." When the top layer of coating is removed by a scratch or scuff, these stalks on the layers beneath cover the newly-formed breach, keeping the coating and its properties intact.

Pictured above: Dr. Catarina Esteves from the department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry at TU/e

The team says this could lead to coatings that remain highly water-resistant for longer, which in turn could lead to a truly "self-cleaning" cars. With these new coatings, water droplets would simply roll off the car, taking any dirt present with them. TU/e says that with one of these coatings on your car, the only thing you'd need to get it clean is the occasional rain shower.

That certainly sounds great, and indeed these coatings would have more uses beyond simply keeping your car clean – the team mentions applying these coatings to solar panels, phones, and aircraft to achieve the same self-cleaning effect – but don't expect them to be available anytime soon. Esteves says that she expects this new coating to be ready for production in six to eight years. The good news, however, is that she also expects the new coating to cost around the same price as currently-available coatings.

[via TU/e]