Skip to main content

It’s a drag when you walk to your car and see a scuff or scratch you didn’t know was there. With clear coat, you can sometimes spot in more clear and color sand it out. But if it goes through the clearcoat of your car’s paint and into the pigment, you’ll probably never be happy with the repair. And it will cost quite a bit for a panel to be reshot and then blended into the rest of the car. But what if a paint scratch was self-healing? What if it could disappear by merely putting your car in the sun to bake?

Direct sunlight heals the car paint with this clearcoat

paint scratches
LACMA contractor touches up scuffed paint | Getty

Now scientists in South Korea have created a clearcoat of sorts that heals itself when exposed to direct sunlight for as little as 30 minutes. In technical terms, the coating has a polymer network made up of acryl polyol, combined with a hindered urea structure.  What that means is that if the polymers are broken apart, they can reform to their original appearance. 

What triggers the healing process is the introduction of heat. This is done by mixing into this polymer cocktail organic photothermal dye that collects infrared light. Scratched paint was shown in demonstrations to completely heal in 30 minutes. Another advantage is that if the same area is scratched, it can repair itself again and again. 

Concentrated light can heal the paint in 30 seconds

Paint healing
Chemical properties of the healing paint | MB

That means if your car gets keyed and the sun is out, by the time you get back to your car the scratches may have already healed. But let’s say that half an hour is too long to wait, by concentrating sunlight with a magnifying glass, the scientists sped up the process to 30 seconds. 

There have been other self-healing coatings that repair with varying degrees of success. But this concoction of polymers takes a lot less time to complete healing. The other inorganic versions need heat guns or concentrated UV lighting to accomplish healing a scratch. Products like Nissan’s Scratch Shield can take up to one week to complete a repair. 

There are thousands of applications for the technology besides cars

Deep scratch marks | Getty

And while we see the obvious application for cars, it can also work for other examples like building materials or phones. Because it is clear, it can be applied with existing paint spraying systems. 

The research was published in the ACS Applied Polymer Materials Journal, via New Atlas.  


Why Do Some Dump Trucks Have Wheels Up Top?