In a first, a researcher has successfully adapted to Indian conditions an effective water repellent, which when coated on a windshield, no matter how heavy the rain, would ensure that water simply slides off — precluding the use of wipers.
Arup Chatterjee, CEO of Kolkata-based ICAn, has pioneered the invention using nanotechnology to manufacture the liquid solution, nGlasskot: it is a mixture of iron, silver and titanium nanoparticles, dissolved in a water-cum-alcohol solvent and then bound together by silicon. The invention, for which Chatterjee has filed for process patents in India and the United States, has been snapped up by a leading manufacturer of windshields. (Due to a non-disclosure clause, the company cannot be identified.)
“Unlike most nanotechnology-based applications that haven’t reached practical application, nGlasskot is one of the first beginnings that will link the research lab and industry,” said Chatterjee. Hydrophobic, or water-repellent surfaces, is a pet research area among nanotechnology researchers.
Though water-lily leaves are nature’s most common water-repellent surfaces, scientists have a hard time recreating those surfaces in the lab. While Pilkington, a US-based company, is one of the pioneers in manufacturing such coatings for windshields, Chatterjee has managed to adapt this technology to work in Indian conditions where temperatures are very high, and has managed to price it at 19% of what it would cost in the United States.
“It’s a big leap as nanocomposites (a mixture of nanomaterials) are sensitive to temperature during manufacture,” said Chatterjee, “making nano-particles is only the beginning; handling and using them practically is substantially difficult.”
Reacting to the news, G Sundararajan, Director, ARCI--a research institute, under the Ministry of Science and Technology, said, “It’s perhaps one of the first steps in the Indian nanotechnology world, that connects the research lab and, industry.”
The current practical applications of nanotech are primarily in paints and coatings, however the biggest customers of nanotechnology are research labs, testing possible applications of the nano-materials.