Before the world of iPods, iPlayers and portable gaming consoles, all a toy company needed to do to increase the appeal of its product among young buyers was apply a non-toxic, glow-in-the-dark (or phosphorescent to give it its official name) finish.
Decades after its first use in children’s toys, a glow-in-the-dark car is terrorising the roads of rural England, emitting an eerie, ghostly white glow as it silently whooshes down deserted country lanes.
Enter Japanese automaker Nissan, which has pulled the same ‘make it cooler’ trick that enamoured children of the 70s and 80s that Mattel, Hasbro and Matchbox knew all too well.
The result? A glow-in-the-dark Nissan LEAF electric car which Nissan says is the greenest glow in the dark car in the world and a world first for any automaker.
Unlike the Tesla Model S we covered last year, which made use of a special electroluminescent paint that glowed bright colours when a small electric current passed through it, the glow in the dark LEAF is painted with a special paint containing Strontium Aluminate and other organically-derived materials.
For the chemists among you, Strontium Aluminate is a solid, odourless, non-flammable pale yellow power that is chemically and biologically inert. When combined with the rare earth metal europium, it acts as a photoluminescent phosphor, emitting around ten times the intensity of light than copper-activated zinc sulfide, the previous material of choice for making phosphorescent paint.
It also emits light for up to ten times as long than its predecessor, making it ideal for providing night-long illumination, which could be yet another way automakers could ensure that other road users are aware of the presence of an electric car, especially in poorly-lit parking lots.
Paint creator Hamish Scott says the paint, which is produced under the trade name of Starpath, works by absorbing ultraviolet light during the day, releasing it at night-time for between eight and ten hours of illumination. Unlike other glowing paint treatments, Starpath is completely organic and non-toxic, and can be applied with a conventional spray gun.
Of course, glow-in-the-dark paint has long been a favourite aftermarket modification of custom car fans, but Nissan says if produced, it could theoretically offer it as an optional extra for future models, since the paint has a shelf-life of around 25 years. That’s far longer than the life span of the average modern car.
Like the so-called ‘self-cleaning’ Nissan LEAF being shown at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show this week– which uses a hydrophilic coating to make it impossible for dirt to stick to its surface — we suspect we won’t be seeing either finish in the showroom any time soon.
But hey. Glow in the dark paint, right?
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