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Car Technology

Corn is the magic ingrediant for self-healing lacquer

Scratches and swirl marks are part of car ownership. Despite best efforts to keep a car clean and of imperfections, such paint imperfections are often out of the owner’s control. Enter corn to solve the problem.

A new corn-based lacquer promises to fill in scratches and swirl marks that normally mar a paint finish’s outer coat of clear lacquer with nothing other than heat to fix the problem. Germany’s Leibniz Institute for New Materials announced Wednesday that it had developed the corn-based lacquer, which is actually derived from corn starch. The lacquer features what the scientists called a “nanomer” property that includes ring-shaped molecules known as cyclodextrins.

The molecules are threaded onto a chain of polymer molecules and the cyclodextrins are free to move about this chain, so to speak. They also can’t fall off due to the presence of other molecules that keep them contained. Their self-healing property comes from the fact they’re all cross-linked to one another and become active via a chemical reaction. Basically, there is a completely flexible clear coat that fills in small scratches. We doubt they’ll fill in a scratch from, say, someone keying the side of a car, though.

All the molecules need to get to work is heat. The scientists were able to minimize the repair time to just one minute at a temperature of 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Otherwise, cooler temperatures will require hours to get the molecules moving.

The German firm isn’t the first to crack into the “self-healing paint” segment, however. Last year, a company based in Illinois called Feynlab announced its a self-healing paint coating and partnered with Panoz to bring it to life. Its formula is also applied atop the paint surface, which fills scratches should something break the coating’s bond.

No word on how much the German institute plans to charge for the lacquer, but it’s working to find partners to commercialize its technology. In the meantime, Feynlab’s process costs around $2,500. That’s the price we pay for perfect clear coats.

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