Subaru has struggled with advertising decisions over the years, but one of their better efforts was a television ad where some self-satisfied beta-male cyclist — you know, the kind of guy who wears his padded shorts to lunch and thinks Cervelos are made in Italy — refuses to wash his Outback until “nature takes care of it” by raining on the car. Of course, anybody who cares about their car’s paint knows that a “rainwash” usually just moves the dirt around and helps what remains settle into a hardened, scratchy mess.
No longer, perhaps.
According to Technische Universiteit Eindhoven’s newsletter, the Dutch university has made a breakthrough in “self-washing cars”.
Researcher Catarina Esteves of the department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry at TU/e and her colleagues have now found a solution to this problem. They have done this by developing surfaces with special ‘stalks’ carrying the functional chemical groups at their ends, and mixing these through the coating. If the outer surface layer is removed by scratching, the ‘stalks’ in the underlying layer re-orient to the new surface, thereby restoring the function.
This development can be of great importance for many applications. For example it will be possible to make a self-cleaning car, with a highly water-resistant coating that keeps this self-cleaning property for long periods. The superficial scratches will be self-repaired and the water droplets simply roll off the car, taking dirt with them.
This is apparently a further development of Nissan’s self-healing paint. Imagine a world in which everybody’s Subaru is perpetually clean! How will the faculty of your local university show its collective disdain for automotive ownership then?