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Professor Stuart Rowan at Case Western led a team of researchers to develop a self-healing coating.  (Source: Case Western Reserve University via YouTube)

When exposed to UV light, the polymer disassembles and reforms, patching scratches or cracks.  (Source: Case Western Reserve University via YouTube)

The material is shown here, healing from a razorblade scratch.  (Source: Case Western Reserve University via YouTube)
New coating is ready for commercial applications

A major emerging field of materials science is to formulate new materials which, like living organisms, can self heal from macroscopic or microscopic damage.  An international team of researchers has created a new kind of coating that could form the basis of true self-healing car paints [press release 1press release 2; video].  

Nissan implemented a primitive form of self-healing car paint in its EX and G lines, but the actual real world results of that endeavor have been mixed.

This new effort is comprised of teams from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, led by Stuart J. Rowan; the Adolphe Merkle Institute of the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, led by Christoph Weder; and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, led by Rick Beyer.

They have created a new self-healing coating that could be used as the basis of paint.  The coating is formed via a technique called supramolecular assembly.  Whereas usual polymers are single large molecules with thousands of atoms, the special new coating is an ionic polymer composed of metal ions and smaller polymeric molecules.  The metal ions act as ”glue", linking the smaller molecules together to form chains.

The polymer's special character shows up when you expose it to UV light.  The polymer enters a "molten" state, filling gaps and scratches.  It then resolidifies.  

Stuart Rowan, a professor of macromolecular engineering and science and director of the Institute for Advanced Materials at Case Western Reserve University, describes, "These polymers have a Napoleon Complex.  In reality they're pretty small but are designed to behave like they're big by taking advantage of specific weak molecular interactions."

Researchers created large scratches and dings on the test coat, then shined a UV light on it, locally.  The material "healed" itself in seconds.  And unlike the self-healing found in living creatures, the material exhibited the ability to go through numerous scratching/healing cycles in a brief time without a loss of integrity.

The researchers evaluated a number of metal ion polymers before picking their current target.  They found that mechanical properties (strength, flexibility without breaking, etc.) increased as the order of the resulting polymer increased.  But as the mechanical strength increased, the ability to be healed decreased.  So scientists opted for a moderate polymer with decent healing and mechanical traits.

As we discussed in our previous piece on self-healing plastics, microcracks -- microscopic scratches or cracks -- ultimately lead to big damage over time.  Aside from resisting macroscopic scratches, the materials could undergo periodic treatments with the UV lamp to prevent wear from microcracks as well.

The research team feels the coating is ready for prime time.  Professor Rowan says the next step is commercialization, stating, "One of our next steps is to use the concepts we have shown here to design a coating that would be more applicable in an industrial setting."

The study on the work was published [abstract] in the journal Nature, perhaps science's most prestigious journal.  

The work was funded by the Army Research Office of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, the U.S. National Science Foundation, and the Adolphe Merkle Foundation.



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uv???
By tastyratz on 4/22/2011 12:12:20 PM , Rating: 3
Paint that melts under uv. Has anyone considered the ramifications of the fact that it would also happen... from the SUN??
What happens from long term uv exposure? Paints like this eventually slowly ooze off the car or develop orange peel?

Skeptic I might be




RE: uv???
By JasonMick (blog) on 4/22/2011 1:06:55 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Paint that melts under uv. Has anyone considered the ramifications of the fact that it would also happen... from the SUN??
What happens from long term uv exposure? Paints like this eventually slowly ooze off the car or develop orange peel?


Likely not. Polymerization occurs at a distinct energy level. To reach that energy level, you'd likely need a UV lamp whose intensity is well above that hitting the Earth as atmosphere-filtered sunlight.

As some of the above ops point out, this isn't exactly "new" tech in that Nissan developed something similar (which I linked in the piece). But this coat was supposed to be able to recover from bigger scratches, which the current gen self-healing coats might struggle with.


RE: uv???
By SiN on 4/23/2011 5:52:42 AM , Rating: 2
Paint me skeptical also. I dont think this would be of great quality. mainly because I refuse to think it can escape the suns uv.

you would hope it is as good as they say I guess


RE: uv???
By jbgrant on 4/27/2011 10:35:38 AM , Rating: 2
Ok, but I see an issue with a paint that has just enough UV protection to not maintain the base layers special self-healing plasticity (let the paint stay hard) but not enough to block a "high intensity" source to soften it and facilitate healing. As the paint wears (takes 5-15 years of direct sun) all of today's modern UV absorbers are broken down as their half-lives are finite. Eventually (especially in the presence of "high intensity" UV paint treatments) the UV protection of the top coat is going to be compromised. What will be the long term result?


RE: uv???
By Manch on 4/22/2011 1:16:22 PM , Rating: 2
According to the article above:

quote:
The polymer's special character shows up when you expose it to UV light. The polymer enters a "molten" state, filling gaps and scratches. It then resolidifies.


You would be less skepticle if you read the freakin article.


RE: uv???
By shin0bi272 on 4/22/2011 10:35:37 PM , Rating: 1
not really because it doesnt say what level of UV light... and UV light is present in sunlight. So who would want your cars paint melting and falling off on a hot day? How long can this stuff hold on while its molten? an hour? two? how about 12 while Im at work all day in the hot southern sun? I do agree with the reply to his post though from the DT member who said its more likely to need a very high intensity beam above what the sun can produce.


RE: uv???
By Precan51 on 4/25/2011 12:44:12 PM , Rating: 2
So Shinobi272 just contradicted his/her self. Also, the exposure of UV doesn't change with the temperature!!! SMDH!!I work with high intensity UV light guns to solidify Resin. Waaaay more powerful in my hand than the sun 93 million miles away! Only thing more powerful than that is CME's!(Coronal Mass Ejection for those who don't know what that is)


RE: uv???
By tastyratz on 4/24/2011 6:24:11 PM , Rating: 2
I did, but I could sell you a bridge too.
They could have it in practice but melting does not happen at one light level while it remains hard at slightly lower levels. This means on a hot southern sunny day after the clear coats uv inhibitors have begun to wear in a few years you might find the paint soft and less forgiving. Maybe it will smear if you lean on your car, etc. Maybe it could eventually run very slowly in florida for example. Old houses with old windows are wavy because glass still is not completely solidified.

Ever notice how glow in the dark pigments capture UV light and over time do not glow so well? What happens when this ages?

They can make all the claims in the world but only time can tell. Sure it sounds impressive on paper now...


RE: uv???
By LRonaldHubbs on 4/25/2011 6:51:48 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Old houses with old windows are wavy because glass still is not completely solidified.

No, that is a variation on a common misconception that has long been debunked.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_common_miscon...


RE: uv???
By Manch on 4/25/2011 3:46:23 PM , Rating: 2
Fine, you can try to sell me a bridge after you've completed you SRA reading comprehension cards.

In the above article, read the paragraph:
quote:
The researchers evaluated a number of metal ion polymers before picking their current target......So scientists opted for a moderate polymer with decent healing and mechanical traits.


You keep saying "melting" like they invented paint with the hardness of a crayon. That's not what it is. It will not drip off your car or take an imprint of your hand. Also look at the link IN THE ABOVE ARTICLE about the clearcoast Nissan used. This is an advance form of an already commercially used product. They're using metal ions instead of chitin

I'll drop it down for you. When you scratch the polymer, you distrub it's natural/ideal chained structure made up of spheres(metal ions) and sticks (polymeric molecules). When this broken structure is exposed to UV light it activates the metal ions, which in turn atracts the ends of the polymeric molecules. They then self assemble. Once it's back into this chained structure even with continued UV exposure it will do nothing else since it's back to its natural/ideal structure.

Like the earlier version Nissan was using this polymer will eventually lose it's ability to self repair and the scratches will be unable to fix themselves Dont worry tho, you will not walk out to the parking lot one day and shriek in horror because your car now has a bare metal finish.


RE: uv???
By Precan51 on 4/25/2011 12:34:26 PM , Rating: 2
hahaha I concur w/ Manch. I have a Nissan but not the one listed in the article(so wish I did though)!!! But now I don't have to worry now that I have this option!!


Soon I won't have to worry...
By Manch on 4/22/2011 8:48:05 AM , Rating: 5
...about that crazy b1tch keying my car!




RE: Soon I won't have to worry...
By amagriva on 4/22/2011 10:08:57 AM , Rating: 5
If it doesn't ruin my Gucci purse next time I'll take with me a hammer you pig! My heart doesn't heal wit sun...


RE: Soon I won't have to worry...
By Manch on 4/22/2011 11:05:57 AM , Rating: 2
Damn.....back to the drawing board


RE: Soon I won't have to worry...
By Samus on 4/22/2011 1:40:00 PM , Rating: 3
She can still slash your tires!


RE: Soon I won't have to worry...
By Wolfy747400 on 4/22/2011 8:20:15 PM , Rating: 2
Unless you have a hummer!


By Wolfy747400 on 4/22/2011 8:30:36 PM , Rating: 2
Or Polymeric rubber. I'll have that up and running by next year!


RE: Soon I won't have to worry...
By callmeroy on 4/25/2011 3:49:18 PM , Rating: 1
Hell I'd be happy if they could just make bird shit repellant paint....


Nothing new here.
By InfinityzeN on 4/22/2011 10:10:17 AM , Rating: 2
My Infiniti's paint is self healing for minor scratches and scuffs. Never Benz use this type of paint too.




RE: Nothing new here.
By AssBall on 4/22/2011 10:32:25 AM , Rating: 2
A lot of current auto paint can buff out minor scratches. This article is talking about more severe types of scrapes.


RE: Nothing new here.
By Manch on 4/22/2011 10:49:57 AM , Rating: 2
He's talking about the self-healing paint Nissan used on their highend vehicles. It will self repair small scratches(no buffing) by itself. After a couple of years though the paint hardens to a point that it's no longer effective. I believe the article has a link to the previous DT article about it.


RE: Nothing new here.
By InfinityzeN on 4/22/2011 11:19:39 AM , Rating: 2
This man is correct. My car actually got hit in a parking lot on the back bumper and had some wicket white scuffing. Two days later, all gone unless you looked closely. After a coat of wax, you can't tell at all.


Hmmmm..
By room200 on 4/22/2011 11:52:25 PM , Rating: 2
Reminds me of Terminator




RE: Hmmmm..
By Azethoth on 4/23/2011 12:34:11 AM , Rating: 2
Because Jason picked a Terminator photo to go with the article?


RE: Hmmmm..
By SiN on 4/23/2011 5:58:47 AM , Rating: 2
Or he said it reminds him of terminator and Jason used/updates the imagery after it was posted mentioned.

I'm just sayin.


By BZDTemp on 4/22/2011 6:30:28 PM , Rating: 2
I imagine something where the effect last maybe 2-3 years would be fine but longer than that it could hurt sales due to people keeping cars longer.




By yxalitis on 4/22/2011 8:47:30 PM , Rating: 3
I doubt it, all this will do is allow higher retained values on used cars. I can't think there are many people who sell cars because of marks on the exterior alone...far cheaper to just respray.
Most people resell to get a newer car, not because of paint deterioration.


By jbgrant on 4/27/2011 10:47:45 AM , Rating: 2
The trend in the auto paint industry is cheaper and cheaper, not better and better. Even toyota has decided certain new models don't need clear coat because the consumer doesn't demand it (Tundra). Honestly, a lot more protection could be added for less money by just giving factory cars a better (more expensive) finish at the factory. Most cars today have half of clear coat they did in the 90's; this limits UV protection and makes moderate scratch removal all but impossible. If consumers wanted a new tech paint like this, they would be demanding more layers of clear coat, harder clearcoat, and certainly not 1-stage paint systems like toyota has reintroduced. The paint technology of today allows for a finish that lasts 20 years in the sun without fading and withstands polishing and correction, but that's just not where consumers put their money. If auto manufacturers start marketing their paint performance with real information, then perhaps they could create some preferential demand for better finishes. I admit the idea is pretty cool, but major improvements can be made very easily in much less experimental ways (but somebody has to pay for good paint).




By YashBudini on 4/29/2011 10:38:23 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
If auto manufacturers start marketing their paint performance with real information, then perhaps they could create some preferential demand for better finishes.

Of that'll be the day.

Also - Are you saying overall that 3 stage paints should last longer than regular paints jobs? Perhaps by sheer volume alone?


No Comment
By FactCheckerDuo on 4/25/2011 12:27:43 PM , Rating: 2
Nissan did this 20 years ago....




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