German chemical company BASF continues to look to the future, delivering innovations that, one day, will make our lives easier.
What does the car of the future look like? Green as I am, I’m sure. My future automobile will run using raspberry juice, and will certainly be equipped with all kinds of innovations that are still to be discovered. Also, considering my driving style and temper, it has to sort of magically heal itself. Well, by the look of recent innovations, a self-healing car might not be a far-fetched dream. German chemical company BASF has recently developed a new clearcoat for cars called iGloss that, according to Péter Kertész, PR manager of BASF Hungary, is extremely scratch and weather resistant.
“iGloss fulfills all the requirements a clearcoat has to fulfill, but on top of that, iGloss is especially scratch resistant – even over the long-term. It is also very resistant to corrosive chemicals such as tree resin or bird droppings, which makes this paint so special. To achieve this leap forward, the researchers developed a “hybrid material” that combines the advantages of “hard” materials and “soft” substances. “One coating of clearcoat is just 40 micrometers thick, or half as thick as a human hair,” Kertész continues. And still, this thin coating has to be strong enough to keep the coating from environmental impacts, salt, bird droppings, resin from trees and scratches for many years, so, iGloss is designed to be harder than an average coating. But if you make a coating too hard, it becomes brittle and won't stand up to adverse weather conditions anymore. That was the technological balancing act BASF had to achieve, and so they did with blending organic and inorganic parts. iGloss gets its hardness from glass-like silicon clusters. “These tiny elements in the coating actually consist of inorganic silicon compounds. Together with the soft organic elements these clusters form a lattice structure in the paint. It is like a 3D fishing net,” Kertész explains, quoting lab manager Dr. Matthijs Groenewolt, one of the brains behind the innovation at BASF Research. According to Kertész, if the sun shines on the paint, then it'll return to its original shape and the scratch will diminish or disappear completely. In addition, if the first one or two micrometers of the coating get worn away by the weather, the paint beneath it still looks exactly like it was originally. “But of course if part of the material gets completely scraped off, or in case someone is really obsessed with finding out what's under the coating, for instance, with a car key, then even iGloss can't stop them.”
Major car companies are already testing BASF's new clearcoat product. “Painting lines don't need to be modified to use iGloss and can continue operating normally,” notes Kertész, adding that a concept car by Hyundai was recently presented at the Geneva Motor Show, named iFlow, incorporating the iGloss innovation, in addition to other BASF innovations like the iGlow for a brilliant effect, which provides mirror-like paint, so cars using this material look as though they are chrome-plated rather than painted. “Because Hyundai was quick to involve BASF in the development process, we were able to offer our full strengths. We are very happy with the outstanding results of our cooperation.”