Geekend: Self-Cleaning Everything

David Wagner, Managing Editor | 4/25/2014 | 100 comments

David Wagner
With the exception of a few weirdoes out there (you know who you are), all of us hate cleaning. No wonder. Every second we spend cleaning is another second we can't spend reading the Geekend.

Fear not, loyal readers. Soon you will have more time to share with your favorite feature. Practically everything is about to become self-cleaning, from your car to your windows to your clothes.

Perhaps the most fun display of the new technology is the self-cleaning car announced by Nissan. It is as easy as a paint job. The new paint resists dirt, dust, and oil, because its structure creates a tiny layer of air between the car and the dirt. In the video below, half a car has been covered in traditional paint. The other half is covered in the new self-cleaning paint.

As you can see, the dirt actually behaves differently when it touches the self-cleaning half of the car. Rather than spreading out and filling into the pores of the paint and making the whole car dirty, the dirt clumps and rolls right off. Mud just sheets like rain off a good wax job.

You can see a similar effect with self-cleaning glass. MIT researchers have invented a glass that is smudge free, fog free, glare free, and self-cleaning. Here's the video.

Just like the paint, the glass is about structuring a layer of nanoparticles that repel the dirt. And tiny cones etched into the glass defeat the glare. There are countless fantastic applications for a material like this. The top two that come to mind are smartphone displays that resist finger smudges and eyeglasses that are glare free and always clean.

Some self-cleaning glass has been used on the sides of buildings for years, but it doesn't have all the properties of MIT's new material. You can expect multiple companies to continue to improve the process for quite some time.

I really see only one problem with this. Glass with no glare? No fogging? It seems like we'll see a lot more of these incidents.

That's all fine and good, but we're talking about hard objects that are relatively easy to clean. It is even a little nice to wash the car on a warm summer weekend. What about the stuff that's harder to clean?

Harvard researchers have invented self-cleaning clothes. Now that's a breakthrough. No more laundry seems like a good idea to me.

The clothes are interesting, because they actually work on a different principle than the car and the glass. The clothes don't use nanoparticles to create a layer of air. They use a small layer of water. Stains and dirt literally skid off the clothes and can't deposit themselves. The air-layer concept won't work on clothes because they have to stretch, twist, and bend. That disturbs the cushion effect.

The clothes still aren't as comfortable as traditional fabrics (because they don't breathe well yet), but we can already see applications in laboratories, for handling hazardous material, and in the military. The assumption is that developers eventually will make these materials more comfortable.

Add all these up, and it is hard to imagine we'll be washing much of anything in a few years. Anything we can paint (from your backyard BBQ to your car to your toilet) will be forever clean. Anything that is made of glass (from your dishes to your windows) will always be nice and shiny. Even things made of fabrics, such as clothes and furniture, will stay like new forever.

What do you think? What is the first self-cleaning thing you want in your house? Is there anything you don't want to be self-cleaning? Something you enjoy cleaning? Comment below.

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
Page 1 / 10   >   >>
Joe Stanganelli   Geekend: Self-Cleaning Everything   5/8/2014 1:14:53 PM
Re: how lazy.
@Dave: Sounds like she's ready for the Kobayashi Maru.
David Wagner   Geekend: Self-Cleaning Everything   5/8/2014 12:00:16 PM
Re: how lazy.
@Joe- Thanks. Always looking for recommendations. 

But they are always have a mix bag of success. My favorite was about clothing choices. If you just stick a kid in something they will usually cry because they want something else. But if you ask them "do you want to wear the green shirt or the red shirt" they wll answer and usually be happy. 

So great. I get all excited about this. And i try it with my daughter when she was two. On a nice warm summer day I say, "do you want to wear your sneakers or your sandles" and without skipping a beat she says, "my rain boots!"

Joe Stanganelli   Geekend: Self-Cleaning Everything   5/8/2014 8:01:23 AM
Re: how lazy.
@Dave: FWIW, while working on a research paper about strategies for interviewing and counseling child clients, I came across a fantastic book called "What Did I Just Say?"  It's a parenting book, but it delves into child psychology and language development -- getting into why children don't do what they're told -- and how to communicate with them so that they do.

Of course, I'm not a parent, so it's easy for me to point at a book and say, "Oh, read this!"  Still, it was an interesting and humorous read.
Joe Stanganelli   Geekend: Self-Cleaning Everything   5/6/2014 8:13:54 AM
Re: Re : Geekend: Self-Cleaning Everything
Reminds me of that old Jack Handey quote from SNL...

If a kid asks where rain comes from, I think a cute thing to tell him is "God is crying." And if he asks why God is crying, another cute thing to tell him is "Probably because of something you did."
Joe Stanganelli   Geekend: Self-Cleaning Everything   5/6/2014 8:12:17 AM
Re: how lazy.
It is a good tip...but in reality what I usually wind up doing is just wearing my wrinkly pants around the house until they're presentable enough for the outside world.
batye   Geekend: Self-Cleaning Everything   5/6/2014 1:07:20 AM
Re: Re : Geekend: Self-Cleaning Everything
intresting point...  but what would Noah have to say about it???
Joe Stanganelli   Geekend: Self-Cleaning Everything   5/3/2014 1:03:41 AM
Re: how lazy.
If we had auto-cleaning bodies, self-cleaning bathrooms might be less necessary.  ;)
Ariella   Geekend: Self-Cleaning Everything   5/1/2014 11:53:47 AM
Re: Re : Geekend: Self-Cleaning Everything
@David indeed, unfortunately, it didn't do much for my deck. 
David Wagner   Geekend: Self-Cleaning Everything   5/1/2014 11:39:41 AM
Re: Re : Geekend: Self-Cleaning Everything
Rain: God's own power washer. :)
Ariella   Geekend: Self-Cleaning Everything   5/1/2014 8:36:39 AM
Re: Re : Geekend: Self-Cleaning Everything
@Joe ha, well it got really heavy last night. But I really don't thnk anyone wants 40 consecutive days of it.
Page 1 / 10   >   >>

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