Nano World: Clear, hard nano-based coating

December 13, 2005

A transparent coating loaded with particles only nanometers or billionths of a meter in diameter is far harder than other conventional organic coatings on the market, for potential use in everything from iPods and cell phones to car windows and flexible video displays, experts told UPI's Nano World.

Akron, Ohio-based Ecology Coatings has developed a new coating for polycarbonate plastics. Polycarbonate is extremely tough and naturally transparent and is one of the most widely used engineered materials in the world, finding its way into lightweight eyeglass lenses, safer cars, shatterproof windows, computer parts and hundreds of other products.

"The hope is to replace glass with something lighter and more breakage-resistant," said Ecology Coatings Chief Chemist Sally Ramsey.

While polycarbonate is very breakage-resistant, it is easily scratched, Ramsey explained. Polycarbonate is often given coatings to improve its scratch resistance, but these are not always very strong and can compromise the material's transparency, adversely affecting other aspects of a device's performance. For instance, scratched iPod and cell-phone screens can drain energy as users try to brighten them up in order to read them properly.

In analyses of the new coating, New Berlin, Wis.-based coatings specialist company Tekra found it rated three to four levels harder than any conventional organic coating on the market today according to the Japanese Industry Standard, a rigorous test for coating hardness. This means it is "at least 50 percent harder," Ramsey said.

"Ecology Coatings has developed a technology for polycarbonates that throws the door open wide on a whole new set of performance properties that benefit manufacturers and consumers," said Tekra Research and Development Manager Jason Wichmann.

The key to the coating's strength and transparency are oxide nanoparticles roughly 50 nanometers wide. These hard particles help prevent abrasive edges and surfaces from penetrating and scratching the coating. At the same time, the nanoparticles are small enough to allow light to pass through undisturbed.

"We are finding that in order to stay at the cutting edge of the new industrials, companies need to start looking at nanomaterials or risk quickly becoming dinosaurs," Wichmann said.

Developing a technique in which a coating will stick onto a surface without inadvertently clouding it up was "the biggest challenge," Ramsey said. The solution they came up with uses ultraviolet light to quickly cure the coating applied to the polycarbonate without etching the surface. This process contains no toxic solvents, water or other liquids.

In addition to incorporating oxide nanoparticles into coatings, "we are also exploring the incorporation of other substances to deliver specialized properties. These basic clear coats are exciting, but they are just the beginning," Ramsey said.

Copyright 2005 by United Press International

Explore further: Scientists make plastic from sugar and carbon dioxide

Related Stories

Scientists make plastic from sugar and carbon dioxide

June 13, 2017

Some biodegradable plastics could in the future be made using sugar and carbon dioxide, replacing unsustainable plastics made from crude oil, following research by scientists from the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies ...

Turning car plastics into foams with coconut oil

June 7, 2017

End-of-life vehicles, with their plastic, metal and rubber components, are responsible for millions of tons of waste around the world each year. Now, one team reports in ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering that the plastic ...

Recommended for you

Predicting the future with the wisdom of crowds

June 23, 2017

Forecasters often overestimate how good they are at predicting geopolitical events—everything from who will become the next pope to who will win the next national election in Taiwan.

Mars rover Opportunity on walkabout near rim

June 23, 2017

NASA's senior Mars rover, Opportunity, is examining rocks at the edge of Endeavour Crater for signs that they may have been either transported by a flood or eroded in place by wind.

Making ferromagnets stronger by adding non-magnetic elements

June 23, 2017

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory discovered that they could functionalize magnetic materials through a thoroughly unlikely method, by adding amounts of the virtually non-magnetic element scandium ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.