Some people love washing their cars, but many folks would appreciate having the fresh-from-the-showroom look without all of the effort. And don't forget the environmental impact of car washing, which drains water reserves and spills pollutants into endangered wetlands. If only our cars would clean themselves.
Thanks to some researchers at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, we may be closer to a perpetually polished Prius. The scientists didn't invent a brand-new nanotechnology. Instead, they took an existing water-resistant product, already in use on some vehicles, and made it better. The original coating worked because it came embedded with nanocapsules in its surface. Those tiny capsules both repelled water and contained cleaning agents or paint droplets so that when they were ruptured, say by a key scratch, they released their contents and "healed" the blemish. Unfortunately, the capsules had a limited shelf life. To extend the self-cleaning/healing properties of the coating, the Dutch scientists have redesigned its nanostructure so that the capsules reside on stalks. When one capsule/stalk combination gets disturbed, another underlying stalk rises up and orients itself at the surface to restore the factory finish.
Cars armed with this new coating will require little more than a good rain to wash away dirt and grime. And bird droppings splashed across your door or hood may be a thing of the past.