Self-healing coating could remove car scratches with sunlight

A self-healing protective coating applied to a model car.

“Self-healing surface of a model car after scratches in focused sunlight with a magnifying glass (above) or direct sunlight (below).”
picture: Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology (KRICT)

Like a screen protector for your entire car, a new protective layer developed by researchers Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology could actually go a step further than that plastic films you use to your smartphone display. When exposed to the sun, it can heal itself, Make scratches disappear completely in just half an hour.

If you don’t park it in a garage all the time, it’s inevitable that your vehicle will get a scratch. be it from another vehicle in a parking lot or a rock thrown up while driving down the street. There are protective coatings Protecting a vehicle’s paintwork and minimizing the risk of a scratch going deep enough to mar the paintwork, exposing the underlying metal panel and increasing the risk of rusting, but even a protective coating will have scuff marks that will either be polished or repaired must be done by a professional with the right tools.

For those who want to keep their vehicle looking as pristine as the day it rolled out of the dealer’s lot, but without putting effort or money into maintenance, self-healing protective coatings became available in development for a few years, but with some challenges that were difficult to overcome. Materials that have malleable properties to help repair scratch damage are also not very durable, so a vehicle would actually be more prone to scratches more often, while harder materials are less prone to damage also exhibit less effective self-healing tendencies when physical impact is severe enough to produce a visible scratch.

Researchers from Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology came up with one Best of both worlds approach. They improved a highly durable protective resin coating with an acrylic polyol-based reversible polymer network material and introduced a photothermal dye. The dye absorbs infrared light from the sun and converts it into thermal energy. which increases the surface temperature of the protective layer. The chemical bonds of the coating’s polymer structure respond to the increased heat by dissociating and then re-bonding, slowly rebuilding the damaged polymer structure at the site where a scratch occurred until it is fully repaired and gone .

The science behind self-healing car paintwork

“Self-healing mechanism of an environmentally friendly protective coating material for vehicles, including a dynamic polymer network and a photothermal dye.”
picture: Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology (KRICT)

The healing process can be sped up with a high-intensity light source like a laser, or old-school magnifying glass, but tests on a small model car treated with the coating found the vehicle with visible damage was simply left out in the midday sun for about 30 minutes generated enough heat to fully heal the scratches.

The effectiveness and speed of the healing process depends on several factors, including the intensity of solar radiation, but the researchers are hopeful it could be used not only for full-size cars, but also as a way to protect other vehicles like boats and planes while minimizing maintenance requirements. And yes, it could even be applied to devices like smartphones, So next time your device falls on the pavement and walks away with scars to remind you of yours Clumsily, you could just leave it on the windowsill for a while and come back to a device that looks as good as new.

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