Steane Klose | Mar 16, 2009

If you're like us (and nearly everyone else), coming out to the car park to find your pride and joy freshly scratched is enough to make you weep.

But fear not; scientists have recently developed a polyurethane coating that, when exposed to sunlight, will heal its own scratches.

It's early days at the moment, but the brains are working on making the technology a viable option for the auto industry. From there, the list of possibilities is almost endless.

"We developed a polymeric material that is able to repair itself by exposure to the sun," Marek Urban of the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg said.

"In essence, you create a scratch and that scratch will disappear upon exposure to the sun," he told the Science website.

scratched_paint

The coating uses a substance found in the shells of crabs and shrimp called chitosan.

When exposed to UV light, the chitosan responds by forming chemical chains that bridge the gap across the break in the material.

Only a razor blade size scratch has been tested so far, and the repair process takes an average of about one hour to complete.

It's unclear yet how wide or deep a scratch can be before it will lose its ability to 'heal' itself.

One downside to the technology is that an area that has been damaged and repaired cannot be repaired again, but the likelihood of a scratch in the same place twice would be low.

There is no word yet on when we can expect to see the technology available for new vehicles, and no carmakers have offered any statement on the topic.

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