British and Chinese scientists say they have developed a new paint that can be applied to clothes, paper, glass and steel to make resilient surfaces that can clean themselves even after being scratched or scuffed.
In this week's issue of the journal Science, the scientists say the paint, made from coated titanium dioxide nanoparticles, is extremely repellent to water — but the coating won't get ruined even if it's damaged or exposed to oil. Because it is so hard-wearing, it could be used for a wide range of applications, from clothing to cars.
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"The biggest challenge for self-cleaning surfaces is finding a way to make them tough enough to withstand everyday damage," said Claire Carmalt, a professor of inorganic chemistry at University College London.
The research team used different coating methods to create repellent surfaces, depending on the material. To coat glass and steel, they used a spray gun; for cotton wool, they used dip-coating; and for paper, a syringe. "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," UCL's Yao Lu said.