Nano-tech­nol­ogy used to pro­tect car fin­ishes

Winnipeg Free Press - Section E - - TECHNOLOGY -

ATOMIC Force Mi­cro­scopes. Nanopar­ti­cles. It sounds like sci­encefic­tion ad­ven­ture in­stead of paint tech­nol­ogy, but nano-tech­nol­ogy has been uti­lized in paint clearcoats on sev­eral mod­els of Mercedes-Benz cars since 2003.

Other car­mak­ers have tried nan­otech­nol­ogy paint as well. Nis­san used it to pro­vide scratch­heal­ing clearcoat paint on the 2008 In­finiti EX35. While Nis­san’s nano-tech­nol­ogy used nano-liq­uid cap­sules that flow into minute scratches, Mercedes’ four years of de­vel­op­ment and test­ing pro­duced a new chem­i­cal- and scratch-re­sist clearcoat with ce­ramic par­ti­cles mea­sur­ing a mil­lionth of a mil­lime­tre each.

Nano-tech­nol­ogy was first in­tro­duced in 1959 when the renowned U.S. physi­cist and No­bel Prize win­ner Richard Phillips Feyn­man de­vel­oped the ba­sic idea. But it wasn’t un­til the mid1980s that the in­ven­tion of the Atomic Force Microscope al­lowed re­searchers to delve into the ac­tual nano-cos­mic world.

In 1989, re­searchers man­aged to move atoms around at will for the first time, and this is now lead­ing to new de- vel­op­ments in medicine and me­chan­i­cal tech­nol­ogy. For ex­am­ple, nano-tech­nol­ogy has al­lowed the de­vel­op­ment of the world’s small­est noz­zle, a thou­sand times thin­ner than a hu­man hair.

When de­vel­op­ing paint clearcoats, the mass and avail­able sur­face of nanopar­ti­cles are in­signif­i­cant in re­la­tion to their ad­he­sion, al­low­ing them to stick soundly to any sur­face. They are per­fectly suited as ex­tremely thin coat­ings for con­ven­tional ma­te­ri­als, mak­ing them less sus­cep­ti­ble to break­age and scratches.

Dur­ing the paint process, the ce­ramic nano-par­ti­cles float around freely in the liq­uid paint. When the car body is baked inside the paint-shop oven at 140C, the ce­ramic nano-par­ti­cles crosslink into a dense net­work in­stead of the long molec­u­lar chains found in con­ven­tional paint. This al­lows the lac­quer to pro­vide much more ef­fec­tive scratch pro­tec­tion from nor­mal wear and tear.

Test­ing of nano-par­ti­cle clearcoats shows they are three times more re­sis­tant to fine scratches than con­ven­tional clearcoats, al­low­ing the paint to re­tain its gloss. Mercedes en­gi­neers noted a 40-per-cent im­prove­ment in re­tain­ing paint gloss com­pared to con­ven­tional clear lac­quers.

Mercedes also found that a large pro­por­tion of all paint­work scratches are caused by me­chan­i­cal car-washes. Minute par­ti­cles of hard ma­te­ri­als, such as road dust and sand be­come lodged in the ro­tat­ing brushes and etch scratches into the paint sur­face. These “hair scratches” are par­tic­u­larly no­tice­able in darker paint shades.

To re­duce the amount of scratch­ing, Mercedes of­fers the fol­low­ing tips for car own­ers:

To avoid scratches caused by sand, dust or other minis­cule par­ti­cles on the sur­face of the body, a thor­ough pre-clean is rec­om­mended. There­fore, al­ways spray the paint­work down with the high-pres­sure washer be­fore driv­ing into the au­to­matic car-wash. I pre­fer the touchless car washes my­self.

Af­ter the car has been washed, dry it off with a soft cloth in or­der to avoid wa­ter stains on the paint­work.

Car own­ers should ap­ply pre­server to their ve­hi­cle’s paint­work twice a year. You can gauge whether this is nec­es­sary by car­ry­ing out a sim­ple check: if the wa­ter no longer beads on the sur­face of the car body af­ter it has been washed, then ac­tion should be taken.

For older ve­hi­cles with dull paint, a high-qual­ity pol­ish is the best op­tion. In the case of newer cars, a gloss pre­server should be suf­fi­cient. Like pol­ish, this should be ap­plied ex­tremely thinly and in cir­cu­lar move­ments us­ing cot­ton wool.

If your car has the nano-par­ti­cle paint tech­nol­ogy and you hap­pen to be in­volved in a col­li­sion, this tech­nol­ogy can be du­pli­cated by lo­cal bodyshops us­ing Mercedes-Benz ap­proved meth­ods and paint ma­te­ri­als. Al­though it’s been around for years, nano-tech­nol- ogy is still in its in­fancy. The en­gi­neers in Stuttgart are al­ready look­ing at the self-clean­ing abil­ity of nano-par­ti­cle sur­face struc­ture for au­to­mo­tive wheels. Per­haps, in the fu­ture, your car will even be able to clean it­self! Jim Kerr is an ex­pe­ri­enced me­chanic, in­struc­tor of au­to­mo­tive tech­nol­ogy, free­lance jour­nal­ist and mem­ber of the Au­to­mo­bile Jour­nal­ists’ As­so­ci­a­tion of

Canada.

This ad for Mercedes-Benz new nano-par­ti­cle clearcoat il­lus­trates that the larger

par­ti­cles on the left are more re­sistent to scratches.

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