November 08, 2002
Nanotech Smart Coatings Under Development

The US military is funding the development of nanotech smart coatings might contain switches, gears, and motors that would be used to report problems, do repairs, and even rapidly change appearances:

U.S. Army experts are trying to embed microscopic electromechanical machines in paint that could detect and heal cracks and corrosion in the bodies of combat vehicles, as well as give vehicles the chameleon-like quality of rapidly altering camouflage to blend in with changing operating environments.

Officials of the Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command's Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (TACOM-ARDEC) at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., are working with scientists at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, N.J., to develop nanotechnology-based "smart" coatings for Army vehicles and other materiel.

If the coatings are going to be that sophisticated it also seems reasonable to expect the coatings will eventually embed sensors as well.

The military might want to consider incorporating some of the ideas that Jonathan Dordick is working on for self cleaning surfaces. The ability of surfaces to kill pathogens on contact would be great for defense against bioweapons:

Nov. 8, 2002 Detergent manufacturers have long used enzymes in their formulations for fighting really tough dirt. Jonathan Dordick, a chemical engineer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., is taking the battle against dirt a step further, using nanotechnology to design a self-cleaning plastic in which the enzyme molecules are an integral part of the material. When the plastic comes into contact with bacteria or other pathogens, the enzymes attack the microbes and destroy their ability to bind to its surface.

This is even more useful for bioweapons defense than it appears at first glance. If a vehicle has travelled thru an area that has airborne bioweapons in it and if the vehicle is sealed its occupants might be safe. But eventually they have to get out wearing their bioweapons gear and then get back in. Now the inside of the vehicle is contaminated by the outer coatings of their protective suits and they can't take off their suits. The ability of surfaces to self-sanitize would be a great time and life saver.

These developments demonstrate just how different the future will be. Will we need to take our cars to the car washer? Or will we just have to flip a switch and suddenly energy will flow across the surfaces of cars powering nanotech cleaners that will clear off cars in a minute? Or how about self cleaning bathtubs, toilets, sinks and floors? Picture a floor that collects up and moves the dust and dirt in a wave into a corner where a nanotech processor ejects the dirt into an outside receptacle.

Also, will houses of the future still have to be repainted periodically? Or will an underlying nanotech layer create a huge surface network that will transport repair material to wherever a wind blown branch has created a scratch? Will nanotech surfaces in the house also clean the smears off of walls and repair scratches there as well? Will one be able to change the color of the house inside and out just by dialing a switch?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2002 November 08 04:29 PM  Nanotech Advances

Travis said at June 10, 2003 9:50 AM:

This is a really interesting idea. Does anybody know where I can learn more about this? I'm interested in doing some research in this area.

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