Nano-technology used to protect car finishes
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
This ad for Mercedes-Benz new nano-particle clearcoat illustrates that the larger
particles on the left are more resistent to scratches.