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When it comes to fogged up car windows, the best way to keep a clear view seems to be by wiping the water droplets away constantly or having coatings that prevent the water from sticking to the glass. However, scientists at A*STAR's Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) in Singapore have discovered that doing just the opposite - collecting the water to create a uniform, thin, transparent layer - actually helps produce a better, clearer view.

June 20, 2014

2 Min Read
Permanent surface coating prevents fogging

When it comes to fogged up car windows, the best way to keep a clear view seems to be by wiping the water droplets away constantly or having coatings that prevent the water from sticking to the glass. However, scientists at A*STAR's Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) in Singapore have discovered that doing just the opposite - collecting the water to create a uniform, thin, transparent layer - actually helps produce a better, clearer view.

The new technology, dubbed CleanClear, is a durable and permanent ceramic coating that is transparent and superhydrophilic, which means it attracts water instead of repelling it. This creates a layer of water that prevents fogging on glass or plastic surfaces, and keeps surfaces cleaner for a longer period of time. Water-forming coatings create an additional uniform water layer to produce a better view as opposed to water-repelling technologies that form water droplets which impair vision.

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Ceramic coating attracts water to prevent fogging.

The patented technology is a one-time ceramic coating that can be applied onto glass or plastic materials at processing temperatures below 100°C. Currently, commonly used chemical coatings degrade with continued usage and have to be re-applied. Although similar hydrophilic coatings exist, these are often processed at much higher temperatures and can only be activated by ultraviolet (UV) rays or sunlight.

Titanium dioxide (TiO2) may also be used to produce self-cleaning glass surfaces that prevent dirt and dust from sticking. However, the TiO2 ceramic coatings can only be applied on surfaces during the manufacturing process at temperatures above 600°C. This limits their application to hard materials like glass. On the other hand, CleanClear can be adapted to multiple surfaces and materials, ranging from glass to plastics. Whereas, TiO2 coatings are also activated by sunlight, IMRE's new coating does not require activation and continues to function even at night and in low-light, indoor environments.

Reduced visibility from fogged up glass or plastic surfaces is a common problem in wet or humid environments, and affects a multitude of products such as car windshields and mirrors, motorcycle visors, spectacles, goggles, and even covers for cookware.

 "Conventional technologies mainly use organic-based materials and some with nanoparticles but these don't last long, and need to be re-coated from time to time. The CleanClear process makes the coating part of the surface - permanently," says Gregory Goh, the lead scientist from IMRE who developed the technology last year. "CleanClear could be used to help create a sort of a clear 'vision shield' for today's car windshields during heavy rain," adds Goh. "Or we could use it to replace current daytime, UV light-activated coatings with an all-day, all-night CleanClear coat on building facades to keep the glass cleaner." IMRE is in talks with companies to further develop and license the technology.

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