Drop the chamois cloth - nanotechnology could mean self-cleaning cars

Drop the chamois cloth - nanotechnology could mean self-cleaning cars

It sounds like a wonderful dream, but UltraTech's coating being tested on cars can repel water, dirt, and oil.

Not many people would confuse the sporty Nissan Versa Note with a commercial cement truck, but the two vehicles could have something in common one day: Special nano-coating that prevents water, dirt, fine oils, and even wet concrete from sticking to the car's surface. This new self-cleaning superhydrophobic technology may not entirely eliminate trips to the car wash, but it could mean that you'll go a year between visits.

Nissan engineers are testing UltraTech's Ultra-Ever Dry coating on a Nissan Versa Note at Nissan Technical Centre Europe under many conditions. Ultra-Ever Dry protects the Nissan from rain, spray, frost, sleet, and standing water. Ultra-Ever Dry may become an aftermarket option for the carmaker.

Ultra-Ever Dry has been a great help to the construction industry where it's being used to coat cement trucks, making them much easier to clean, says Mario Cruz, UltraTech's marketing manager.

In testing, UltraTech and Nissan are using a white car because Ultra-Ever Dry is opaque and "whitish translucent," according to Cruz. The coating doesn't have a glossy shine like the one left after hours with a can of wax and a chamois because the finish appears matte flat.

A surface treated with Ultra-Every Dry is more hydrophobic than wax or even water-resistant windshield coating, so it better repels water. The Ultra-Ever Dry coating will only last for about a year before it will have to re-applied depending upon weather conditions. Don't expect to use it on tires or upholstery, Cruz says: "It will wear off from abrasion."

UltraTech CEO Mark Shaw showed off the coating technology during a 2013 TED Talk. Nanoparticles coat the surface making a texture with patterns of geometric shapes that have "peaks" or "high points". These teeny-tiny high points repel water, some oils, wet concrete, and other liquids.

If you're thinking you'd love some Ultra-Ever Dry for your car, kitchen floor, snow shovel, kennel or garage, you're out of luck--it's only available for industrial use at this point. Cruz says that only a professional with the right equipment can apply the material to surfaces.

I'll admit that I'm not fond of washing my car, especially after long trips or parking it under a shady tree. After spending hours scrubbing bird droppings and bugs off my car, I can't help but dream of a day where I could blow the gunk off a car covered with Ultra-Ever Dry coating. "I'm pretty sure about the birds but not sure about the bugs," said Cruz.

It remains a dream for now: Cruz says tests with Nissan on still ongoing.

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Tags industry verticalscarsnissanCar TechAutomotive

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