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March 2018

  Our Contribution to the Development of Autonomous Vehicles

We are on the cusp of the biggest paradigm shift in automotive history. Let's face it, human drivers sitting behind steering wheels controlling vehicles powered by internal combustion engines - not a whole lot has changed in the past 100 years except that we go faster, have more cup holders, and air conditioning is pretty standard now. As we know, that's all about to change. Cars are going electric and will be self-driving. It's not a question of if but when - and how soon.

The question we aim to answer today is: How is ramé-hart contributing to the development of autonomous vehicles? We'd like to suggest there are many ways but we will focus on five of them today:

A black Lykan is difficult to detect by the laser sensor of a self-driving car

1. People love their black cars - whether it's a high-end luxury sedan, sports car, limo or a even an UberBLACK. The problem with black, however, is that it absorbs light. This makes it difficult for the laser sensors on self-driving cars to bounce off and detect them. Of course, this is bad to be undetectable. PPG Industries (a ramé-hart customer) and others are developing a reflective undercoating that will allow the light from laser sensors to pass through dark paint and then bounce off the specially-developed undercoating. We get involved by providing the tools to measure wetting properties so paints and undercoatings can be formulated for optimized appearance, adhesion, application, and performance - not just for humans but for lasers, too.

An Eggplant can stay cool by reflecting light

2. Another problem with black cars and their propensity to absorb light is they can get really hot on sunny days. All that cooling power to run the A/C degrades the performance of the vehicle and, in the case of electric, drains the battery. The fix for this problem is what's called eggplant technology. PPG has a patent on it.1 Others are working on it. The eggplant stays cool in the sun by allowing the sun's rays to pass through the dark skin and then bounce off the white meat inside the plant. This technology, an example of biomimicry, is also being used to keep aircraft cabins cooler which translates to better performance by using fewer resources. Naturally, new coatings based on this eggplant technology need to be analyzed (surface tension) and wetting properties (surface energy) optimized for adhesion (contact angle) and surface finish.

Waymo self-driving car with invisible bar code

3. PPG is working on another technology that will benefit self-driving car development - an invisible barcode that can be scanned by other autonomous vehicles but is otherwise invisible to the human eye. Embedded in this bar code may be information about the vehicle such as braking distance. Eventually, this technology could be applied to street signs and bridges to aid in navigation. Our instruments are used by researchers who are developing these new technologies and working on the best way to apply invisible bar codes to autonomous vehicles and signs so it will last and be machine readable.

4. When cars get dirty or iced up, they are harder to detect. Thus, researchers (including those at PPG) are working on paints and coatings that provide super or near-superhydrophobic properties. Not only does a self-cleaning car look better, but it's easier seen by other self-driving cars. Our instruments are used to measure the contact angle and wetting properties on test surfaces and coatings that are being developed to make autonomous vehicles more self-cleaning.

5. In a similar fashion, sensors of all type (lidar, radar, laser, cameras, and ultrasound to name a few) work best if they have a clean line of sight free of dirt, snow or ice. Our tools are being used to develop technologies that promote self-cleaning lenses and sensor windows. This requires both hydrophilic and hydrophobic coatings since both can be used to prevent the buildup of dirt and contaminants. Naturally, long-term durability is important, too.

As you can see, even paint and coatings are getting smarter as the world moves from from analog cars to smart autonomous vehicles with improved sensor detection, cooling efficiency, invisible barcode, and self-cleaning sensor lenses. Researchers and surface scientists are using our powerful ramé-hart instruments to develop technologies that lead to safer, more robust, and energy efficient autonomous vehicles and systems. If you are working on making self-driving cars a reality, contact us for more details on how we can help.

1 See http://corporate.ppg.com/Media/Newsroom/2015/PPG-Aerospace-solar-control-coatings-use-eggplant.

  Superhydrophobicity and Wetting Symposium
  We wish to make you aware of the upcoming Superhydrophobicity and Wetting Symposium which will be held at Aalto University in Espoo, Finland the week of 13-May-2018. There will also be a Surface Tension and Wetting Course available as well at no charge. To learn more, see https://msw2018.aalto.fi/.
  Physics of Wetting (Book)
  A few years ago we obtained a copy of a book entitled Wetting of Real Surfaces. This gem written by Dr. Edward Bormashenko, a professor at Ariel University in Israel, concisely details such concepts as surface tension, wetting on ideal surfaces, contact angle hysteresis, Cassie and Wenzel models, and features a special focus on superhydrophobicity. We have referred to this text numerous times and have found it to be highly readable and intensely informative. Now Dr. Bormashenko has authored a new book entitled Physics of Wetting which we received an advance copy of. We have begun reading it and have found it to be written in the same crisp style. This book provides an introduction to a variety of wetting phenomena. The concepts of contact angle, surface tension, and capillary interactions are explained with ample examples from nature and the real world. We recommend both of these books for students and researchers involved in understanding wetting behaviors. For more details on this new book Physics of Wetting, click here. For more information on the previously published Wetting of Real Surfaces, click here.

Carl Clegg
Director of Sales
Phone 973-448-0305
Contact us



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