A World With Clean Rail Cars?

Just yesterday I sat waiting for a train to pass an intersection. Rail cars covered in graffiti are nothing new, but I was struck by how ugly some of the cars were because of multiple graffiti layers. The world around us is uglier and our life experience is degraded by this vandalism.

This morning I read something that gives me hope there may be an end to graffiti. University of Massachusetts scientists have developed what they call SOCAL surfaces. “SOCAL’ to me means South California, because I heard the term used that way daily when I was stationed at MCAS El Toro in the 1970s. But these scientists use the term to mean slippery, omniphobic, covalently attached liquid. That is, neither oil nor water will attach to a surface coated with this liquid. So neither oil nor water-based paints will adhere.

These new coatings are transparent, thermally stable, and robust. Their outstanding omniphobic properties are maintained even after a year in storage. The ease with which they can be produced should make application on an industrial scale practical.

If the paints won’t adhere, objects coated with the liquid will be immune to graffiti. Hallelujah. Let’s hope this product is commercialized soon. It will have benefits far beyond rail cars.

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