Parking in the sun for 30 minutes could one day make your car’s scratches disappear

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

“Self-healed surface of a car model after scratching when exposed to focused sunlight with a magnifying glass (top) or direct sunlight (bottom).”
Image: Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology (KRICT)

Like a screen protector for your whole car, a new protective coating developed by researchers from Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology could actually go further than the plastic films you to apply to your smartphone screen. When exposed to the sun, it is able to heal itself, remove scratches completely in as little as half an hour.

Unless you keep it parked in a garage all the time, a scratch on your vehicle is inevitable; whether it’s another vehicle in a parking lot or a rock kicked up while driving down the road. There are protective coatings that help protect a vehicle’s finish and minimize the risk of a scratch deep enough to damage the paint, expose the underlying metal panel and increase the risk of rust, but even a protective coating will show scratches that need to be buffed out or corrected. by a professional with the right tools.

For those who want to keep their vehicle as pristine as it was the day it rolled off the dealer lot, but without putting any effort or money into its upkeep, self-healing protective coatings have been in development for a few years, but with difficult challenges to overcome. Materials that exhibit malleable properties to help repair scratch damage are also not very durable, so a vehicle would actually be more prone to scratches more frequently, while harder materials that are less susceptible to damage also expose self-healing tendencies less effective when a physical impact is strong enough to produce a visible scratch.

Researchers from the Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology came with a approach the best of both worlds. They have improved a very durable protective resin coating with a reversible polymer network material based on acrylic polyol, as well as 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 coating. The chemical bonds in the coating’s polymer structure react to the increased heat by dissociating and then recombining again, slowly rebuilding the damaged polymer structure where a scratch occurred until it is completely repaired and gone .

The science behind a self-healing car coating

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

The healing process can be sped up using a high intensity light source like a laser or by going the old-fashioned way with a magnifying glass, but tests with a small model car treated with the coating found that Simply leaving the vehicle with visible damage in the bright midday sun for about 30 minutes has generated enough heat to fully heal the scratches.

The effectiveness and speed of the healing process depends on several factors, including the intensity of sun exposure, but researchers are confident that it could not only be used on 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 the next time your device hits the pavement and leaves with scars reminding you of your clumsiness, you could just leave it on a windowsill for a while and come back to a device that looks like new.

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