Researchers are working on the ice-free car window
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute promise car drivers, thanks to specially coated windows, relief not only in winter. The annoying winter morning exercise at the Freikrat…icy panes could soon be over.
Source: picture-alliance / dpa / Lehtikuva_Oy
The annoying scratching free of icy windows could soon be over. The special coating also has disadvantages.
KOne more window scratching in snow and ice: Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute in Braunschweig promise car drivers, thanks to specially coated windows, relief not only in winter. The annoying winter morning exercise of scratching free iced windows could soon be over for many drivers. Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Surface Engineering and Thin Films in Braunschweig have developed an ice-free car window. Even at minus 18 degrees, the researchers promise a non-iced disc the next morning.
To do this, a very thin, transparent layer of indium tin oxide is applied to the glass. “This conductive layer protects the pane from cooling down, so that no more water can condense or freeze on the outside,” explains expert Bernd Szyszka. The snow should be wiped away by the windshield wiper, nothing freezes underneath. Heating wires that have been common up to now, for example in rear windows, or energy-guzzling ventilation that lasts for minutes should become superfluous.
The ice-free car window was made possible by a new coating technology. In this so-called high-energy impulse sputtering – comparable to billiards – atoms are shot out of a metal plate in a vacuum with noble gas ions, which are then precisely controlled and deposited on the glass. The layer is only 0.6 nanometers thick – less than a millionth of a millimeter. It can even be rounded and bent, and is scratch-resistant and wear-resistant for a long time. It could also be heated.
"In cooperation with a large car and glass manufacturer, we worked on the ice-free car window for ten years and tested it intensively," reports Szyszka. Now it is ready for the market. Older vehicles can also be retrofitted. The problem, however, is that the new coating restricts radio traffic in the car.
The Fraunhofer researchers are now working on a zinc oxide coating that could make the pane cheaper and even more robust. At the same time, they see great innovation potential in the car window. They are researching panes that clean or even “heal” themselves. For example, a disc with a roughened coating can repel water – similar to the lotus plant. Spherical droplets form, which roll off, taking dust particles with them.
A layer of wax could also be packed onto the rough, transparent metal coating. If it were damaged by the windshield wiper, for example, it could repair itself. Szyszka: "With a different coating, scratches could heal themselves and the cracks closed by themselves."
Other layers could also reflect the sun’s rays, preventing up to 50 percent of the heat from getting into the car. The air conditioning would have to work less and the electricity consumption in the car could decrease. According to Szyszka, this could become important in the future for electric cars, which require a lot of electricity to drive them.
In the future, the Fraunhofer researchers also want to put transparent displays on the car window, on which, for example, navigation maps or current traffic information can be displayed without hindering the driver. In Braunschweig the main focus is on conductive organic light-emitting diodes (OLED for short). Szyszka’s forecast: “This technology will be ready for the market in five years. So far this has only worked on a laboratory scale. "
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