Toward Smart Coatings


Researchers at NJIT and Picatinny Arsenal are collaborating to develop a new generation of smart coatings. Daniel J. Watts (left) heads the NJIT team, while NJIT graduates Nelson Colon '89 and Laura Battista '95, '97 work on the Picatinny team.

Smart paints and coatings, enriched with nanomachines to perform functions like changing color or repairing corrosion, are the focus of a large-scale, multidisciplinary research project led by Daniel J. Watts (photo right), executive director of the York Center for Environmental Engineering and Science and Panasonic Chair in Sustainability. Funded by the U.S. Department of the Defense, the futuristic coatings are intended for use on military vehicles and weapons systems. The Army seeks technology that will:Sense deterioration or breaks in the surface or device cover by the coating and make repairs without any human intervention.

Change color and patterns to create active camouflage by projecting the images of the surrounding area as collected through continuous videotaping. Such a property would render a truck or tank virtually invisible.

Render pyrotechnics or explosives inactive while the coating remains on them.

Selectively and easily remove coating with proper "orders."

  • Sense deterioration or breaks in the surface or device cover by the coating and make repairs without any human intervention.
  • Change color and patterns to create active camouflage by projecting the images of the surrounding area as collected through continuous videotaping. Such a property would render a truck or tank virtually invisible.
  • Render pyrotechnics or explosives inactive while the coating remains on them.
  • Selectively and easily remove coating with proper "orders."

A joint program with Clemson University and Picatinny Arsenal, the smart coatings project draws on NJIT's expertise in device physics, nanotechnology and MEMS, polymer engineering, chemistry and environmental engineering, and materials characterization. NJIT researchers have background in polymeric coatings, microsensor fabrication, large-area circuits, nanostructures and nanocomposites that provide a foundation for the development of this new generation of coatings.