Saturday, June 7, 2014

Self-Healing Material Protects Mobile Devices

By their very nature, mobile devices are more exposed to physical damage than desktop devices that spend their time sitting safely in one place. Manufacturers have responded to the problem of cracked or shattered display screens with the adoption of hardened cover glass such as the ion-exchange Gorilla Glass from Corning. But what about protecting the rest of the case from scratches and dents?

Natoco from Japan may have the solution. The company was exhibiting some of its novel materials in the booth from chemical company Nagase at Display Week. One particularly interesting one was a glossy paint that can heal itself when scratched. The booth demonstration had two glossy black panels mounted side by side. When you scrubbed them with a wire brush, the scratches were clearly visible. However, the scratches on the panel using the Natoco coating slowly disappeared, and in a matter of a few minutes, the surface was restored to a pristine surface.

The paint comes in a variety of formulations that can be cured using either heat or UV light. The paint is clear, so it can be used to create a case of any color, simply by applying a base coat. The result is a bright and durable coating for mobile phones, tablets, or other portable devices. As companies struggle to find ways to differentiate their products from the competition, a durable coating made to match colors associated with the company’s branding could provide a competitive advantage.

Natoco also makes a matte transparent coating that resists marks. Dirt from routine handling or even “permanent” markers can be wiped off with a standard facial tissue or paper towel, with no solvents required: not even water. The slick surface makes it difficult for materials such as ink to adhere, and the transparent coating offers the same color-matching advantages as the self-healing material. –Alfred Poor

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