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MB nano-particle clearcoat


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Stuttgart, Dec 03, 2003

After four years of development work, an innovative new clear lacquer is set to go into series production at Mercedes-Benz at the end of 2003. Ground-breaking nano-technology ensures that the new product is substantially more scratch-resistant than conventional paint. The E, S, CL, SL and SLK-Class model series are the first cars in the world to be available with this new paint system, whilst customers of other Mercedes models can look forward to the increased scratch resistance of nano-paintwork from spring 2004. This new technology represents the Stuttgart-based car maker’s latest significant contribution towards considerably enhancing the already exemplary long-term quality and value retention of its passenger cars.

The newly developed clear lacquer, which contains microscopically small ceramic particles, hardens in the paintshop oven, forming an extensively cross-linked network. The paint is thus more effectively protected against scratches caused by mechanical car-washes, for example. The nano-particles provide a three-fold improvement in the scratch resistance of the paintwork and ensure visibly enhanced gloss over an extended period of time. Following extreme tests in a laboratory car-wash, Mercedes engineers noted an around 40-percent improvement in paint gloss compared to conventional clear lacquers.

Mercedes-Benz carried out extensive testing on the nano-particle clearcoat both in the laboratory and under everyday conditions. Even after several years of use, the more than 150 test cars involved in the long-term testing programme displayed significantly greater scratch resistance and enhanced paint gloss compared to vehicles with conventional paintwork. Added to which, the newly developed paint system also meets the stringent Mercedes standards in terms of the protection it offers from chemicals in the environment.

New nano-particle clearcoat will be introduced as standard for both metallic and non-metallic paint finishes.


Microscopically small ceramic particles provide a layer of protection

Remarkable advances in the area of nano-technology have allowed tiny ceramic particles – each less than a millionth of a millimetre in size – to be integrated into the molecular structure of the binding agent. These particles float around freely at first in the liquid clearcoat, before cross-linking as the drying process takes effect. The particles link in with one another in such a way as to create an extremely dense and smoothly structured network at the paint surface. This provides a protective layer and ensures that the new nano-particle clearcoat is considerably more scratch-resistant than conventional paintwork.

The effectiveness of the new technology was borne out by the results of an extreme test conducted in a laboratory car-wash according to DIN standards. The water used in the test contains a precisely measured concentration of fine particles and is spread over the paintwork by the rotating washing brushes, leaving behind scratches. After ten wash cycles in the laboratory car-wash – reproducing the degenerative effect of some 50 to 100 regular car washes – the nano-painted sheet metal emerged with around 40-percent greater gloss than samples with conventional clear lacquer.

Mercedes-Benz is the world’s first vehicle manufacturer to offer this more scratch-resistant clear lacquer. Nano-particle clearcoat serves as an early indicator of the huge potential of nano-technology for the future, techniques which allow scientists to reach into and alter the atomic structure of materials. Indeed, it will also be possible to give materials in other areas of automotive development new properties which allow them to carry out particular functions. The term “nano-technology” is rooted in the Greek word “nanos”, which translates as “dwarf”. Scientists generally use the term to describe a billionth of a unit, one nanometre equating to a billionth of a metre.


The technology behind innovative nano-particle clearcoat: Microscopically small ceramic particles in the paint structure provide protection against scratches

The paintwork on the latest cars consists of several exceptionally thin layers, which each fulfil different tasks. The complex painting procedure begins with the phosphating process, in which the car body is sealed in an extremely fine but highly effective zinc phosphate coating. This protects the sheet metal from corrosion and at the same time forms a sound basis for the cataphoretic dip priming – whose primary function is also to provide a shield against corrosion – which is next to come. Here, the car body is submerged in a tank of water-thinnable paint, which coats every cavity, corner, groove and edge through an electrophoretic reaction. Together, phosphating and cataphoretic dip priming form a layer only some 22 micrometres thick.

Now it’s time for the filler, likewise water thinnable and containing only a small quantity of organic solvent. Its job is to absorb isto absorbe the impact of small stones and to even out the metal structure. The paint particles are electrostatically charged by high-speed rotational atomisers, causing them to be pulled towards the body. This process ensures that the layer of filler, which is some 25 micrometres thick, is distributed evenly.

The next layer of paint is the base coat (approx. 15 micrometres thick), which contains not only the customer’s choice of colour in pigment form but also, if a metallic finish has been ordered, the tiny aluminium flakes which provide the elegant metallic effect. As with the filler, an electrostatic charge increases the effectiveness of the paint application in this process as well. The base coats used by Mercedes-Benz are water-soluble and contain as much as 80 percent less organic solvent than conventional paint finishes.

The top layer (approx. 40 micrometres thick) is formed by the transparent clear lacquer, which provides the gloss and weatherproof properties of the paintwork. This lacquer is put under particular stress in the everyday life of a passenger car, having to withstand environmental elements such as acid precipitation, tree resin, bird droppings, dust and soot, as well as a considerable physical battering – from stone chipping, sunlight, abrasion and fluctuations in temperature, among other factors.

The paintwork of a Mercedes-Benz car thus consists of five layers with a combined thickness of some 100 micrometres (approx. 0.10 millimetres). Each of these coats is the result of a complex development process spread over several years which has seen a team of experts fulfil a number of requirements. In addition to refining the process technology involved, the engineers have addressed key issues relating to environmental protection, quality and durability.

The innovative nano-particle clearcoat, which Mercedes-Benz will become the world’s first car maker to offer from the end of 2003, is a case in point, with over four years of development and testing behind it. The new clear lacquer has helped the engineers resolve the technical conflict of interests between scratch resistance and chemical resistance which has plagued the development of clear lacquer up to now. This new and innovative paint system meets Mercedes’ stringent standards in both respects.

Tiny ceramic particles each measuring a millionth of a millimetre form a protective layer


A large proportion of all paintwork scratches are caused by mechanical car-washes. Minute particles of hard materials, such as road dust and sand, become lodged in the rotating brushes and etch scratches into the paint surface. These “hair scratches” are particularly noticeable in darker paint shades.

With the help of the nano-technology developed at the beginning of the 1980s, scientists have been able to alter the molecular structure of the binding agent and integrate tiny, microscopic ceramic particles. These each have a diameter of less than 20 nanometres, which makes them tens of thousands times thinner than a human hair

During the electrostatic paint application process, the binding agent particles float around freely at first in the liquid paint. It is not until the car body is placed inside the paintshop ovens at a temperature of some 140 degrees Celsius that the particles cross-link into a dense network. This allows the lacquer to provide much more effective scratch protection than conventional paints, whose binding agent and cross-linking agent form comparatively long molecular chains. Tests confirm that the tiny, microscopic ceramic particles do indeed enhance the scratch resistance of this clear lacquer several times over.

In other words, nano-particle clearcoat offers considerably greater and longer-lasting resistance to paint scratches – such as those caused by car-washes – than conventional paint finishes. However, even this new clear lacquer developed on the basis of nano-technology cannot provide effective protection against vandalism, i.e. if the paintwork is scratched deliberately using keys, tools or other objects.

Considerably greater paint gloss after extreme test in laboratory car-wash

Mercedes-Benz began by testing the impressive scratch and chemical resistance of nano-particle clearcoat on individual body parts in the laboratory, before sending out more than 150 test cars as part of a practical testing programme in the summer of 2001. The results were extremely encouraging. After several years of testing, the nano-painted Mercedes test cars stood out from vehicles with conventional clear lacquer with their significantly higher level of paint gloss. This conclusion was backed up by standardised tests carried out in a laboratory car-wash according to DIN standards, in which a precisely calculated measure of fine quartz sand is mixed in with the water. This test thus provides an accelerated simulation of the processes in a regular car-wash: according to the amount of dirt on the car, ten cycles in the lab car-wash reproduce the degenerative effect of 50 to 100 regular car washes.

After the wash programme, the engineers use a special gloss measuring device to examine the scratch marks on the painted metal plates and assess the residual gloss. The results showed that whilst the residual gloss of conventional paintwork stood at around 35 percent after ten wash cycles in the laboratory car-wash, the more scratch-resistant nano-particle clearcoat gave a reading of 72 percent.

Resistance three times higher in the “nano-scratch” test

The Research Institute for Pigments and Paints (FPL) in Stuttgart, which worked closely with Mercedes-Benz in the testing programme for the new clear lacquer, supplied a nano-scratch testing device which allowed the engineers to make a precise examination of the nano-structure of the paint surface. This state-of-the-art piece of equipment is fitted with a diamond point measuring two micrometres, which is passed over the paint sample according to a pre-defined scale of gradually increasing force and leaves behind an extremely fine scratch mark on the paint.

Experts then analyse the paint surface under the Atomic Force Microscope and take a series of measurements, including the force required for the first cracks to appear in the paint structure.

Cracks begin to form in the nano-particle clearcoat when a force of 20 millinewtons (mN) is exerted, whilst the diamond point breaks through conventional paint with only 7.4 mN of force. This scientific test thus provides further evidence of the significantly greater scratch resistance of Mercedes-Benz’ nano-particle clearcoat.

Mercedes demands a high level of chemical resistance

Mercedes engineers also assessed the chemical resistance of the innovative clear lacquer using standardised procedures. As part of the testing programme, samples of four different substances - sulphuric acid, pancreatin (simulating bird droppings), tree resin and fully desalinated water - were dripped onto the paint surface in rows and left to work their way in over a period of half an hour and in temperatures of 30 to 75 degrees Celsius. The engineers then assessed from what temperature the paint surfaces began to show signs of lasting damage, with target values pre-calculated for each substance. In this test, the newly developed nano-particle clearcoat fulfils the same stringent Mercedes quality criteria as conventional paint systems.

The new nano-particle clearcoat has also passed other extreme tests – such as extended exposure to ultraviolet light mirroring the intensity of the sun in the US state of Florida – which prove its readiness for series production in every respect.


Self-cleaning wheels and paints with integrated solar cells

Nano-technology has a big future in automotive construction. In addition to their use in paints with increased scratch resistance, nano-particles will be employed in the future to produce self-cleaning surfaces. Indeed, DaimlerChrysler research engineers are currently working on wheels for passenger cars whose nano-structured surface has dirt-deflecting properties. It is also within the realms of possibility that the cars of the future will feature either paintwork or an extremely thin foil coating containing tiny solar cells. These would convert the sun’s light into electric energy, which in turn would be fed into the vehicle’s power supply.

Nano-particles are also set to take on important tasks in the world of medicine. For example, “nanosphors” – mini beams of light produced by light phosphors like those used in light sticks – dock onto viruses, bacteria or other selected cells and make them visible using their fluorescent light. A drop of blood, some saliva or a few body cells would be sufficient to identify diseases or to diagnose a lack of tolerance to a certain medication. Currently, complex and expensive laboratory tests are required to achieve the same aims.

There’s no doubt about it, the future is full of potential for nano-technology, which has the power to influence many areas of our daily lives. However, the scientists in the field have a lot of work ahead of them, with the properties of only around a fifth of the 90 usable elements in the periodic system so far assessed for their “nano-compatibility”.

There is much potential still to explore and many nano-inspired products, some of which we may not have even thought of yet, still to invent.

©1998-2003 DaimlerChrysler. All rights reserved.

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That leaves C, ML, and G-Class customers scratching their heads, and their paint until next Spring.

40% improvement in paint gloss huh, that'll be cool to see.

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think it will be exclusive to MB? or wil they sell the idea to other companies?
i am wondering the same thing. if they are selfish they are bastards :lol: all cars should have this, well depending on home much it costs. Good job on the homework GIR!
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It'll be industry wide before too long, you know it. At least with premium automakers. You can't hoard that kind of advancement for too long, we're talking paint here.

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i'm sure it was developed my some chemical company for MB, who merely liscences it. I'm sure dupont (or whoever made it) will be letting others at it in a few month. I'm sure there is a clause in their liscensing agreement with MB that says they won't let anyone else have it for a while.

That is pretty cool though. Mercedes is always cutting edge in the small details.

GIR is the man with mercedes stuff, he knows stuff about them even the boys in stuttgart don't.

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From the text though, Mercedes is the primary developer, with a little help from outside. But they can't keep it to themselves.

Knowing stuff about Stuttgart, that even Stuttgart doesn't know. That would be rumour wouldn't it?

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i'm saying he knows more cumulatively than the average factory guy. in a big company, people focus on their job, and GIR makes it his life to know everything they do.

And the would pitch it to sound like that. You need pretty heavy chemical resources to develop something like that, i'm sure they had a partner.

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