Coating or painting is generally applied to surfaces for protecting them against damage and corrosion. However, the coatings do not last that long. For the first time, scientists from Eindhoven University of Technology have created a self-repairing coating with a surface that repairs itself after damage.
The coating can be applied on aircraft that may need repainting less often, cars that may never need to be washed and mobile phones that can be clean of finger prints, say the researchers.
Specialized coatings, say, those with anti-bacterial properties or those that are water resistant have nano-sized molecules on the surface that provide them with these special properties. The problem however is that these molecules are easily and irreversibly damaged by a scratch or some form of abrasive contact. The coating thus loses its characteristic properties.
Researchers at the University of Technology, Eindhoven have solved the problem by developing surfaces with special stalks that carry these functional chemical groups at their ends, that can be mixed with the coating. When the surface of the material becomes slightly damaged, the stalks in the underlying layers reorient themselves in such a manner as to restore the function.
The new technology can be used for a number of applications. For example, a self-cleaning car with a highly water resistant coating, can be manufactured. Small scratches on the car will be self-repaired and water droplets on the car will simply roll off the car, taking dirt with them.
Products like mobile phones, solar panels and aircraft can remain cleaner for a longer period of time. In case of aircraft, a cleaner surface would mean more fuel efficiency as it will lead to less air resistance.
Other uses of the technology can be the development of self-repairable contact lenses and ship coatings that resist formation of algae.
An important limitation of the new technology is that it works only with scratches that do not penetrate the coating completely, according to the researchers.
The coatings will be made available in the market in 6 to 8 years after further development, and at prices comparable to cost of present coatings.
The findings were published in July 17 edition of the journal Advanced Materials.
by RTT Staff Writer
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