Scientists have invented a new paint-like coating that can be added to either soft or hard materials so make them self-cleaning, superhydrophobic, and resistant to scuffs and scratches. Made from titanium dioxide nanoparticles suspended in an ethanol solution, the 'paint' can be sprayed or dipped onto surfaces, and repels everything, including oil, which means it's perfect for use on the mechanical parts of vehicles.
What's special about this coating is that, unlike similar superhydrophobic coatings, which easily rub off surfaces, this one stays put, even if you try to rub it away with sandpaper. And you don't need to tilt the surface downwards to rid if of the little repelled droplets, because they just bounce off on their own.
"Being waterproof allows materials to self-clean, as water forms marble-shaped droplets that roll over the surface, acting like miniature vacuum cleaners picking up dirt, viruses and bacteria along the way," lead researcher Yao Lu, from University College London in the UK, said in a press release. "For this to happen, the surface must be rough and waxy, so we set out to create these conditions on hard and soft surfaces by designing our own paint and combining it with different adhesives to help the surfaces withstand damage."
The team has tested the coating on clothes, paper, glass, and steel, and says it would be be easily applied to the surface of cars.
"The biggest challenge for the widespread application of self-cleaning surfaces is finding a way to make them tough enough to withstand everyday damage," one of the team, Claire Carmalt, added. "The surfaces tend to be mechanically weak and so rub off easily, but by pairing our paint with different adhesives, we've shown it is possible to make a robust self-cleaning surface. We used materials that are readily available so our methods can be scaled-up for industrial applications."
You can see it in action in the video above. My hope is that one day, everything will be superhydrophobic and we'll be living in a sea of bouncing liquid droplets. That's my dream.