At the 2008 Geneva Motor show a prototype vehicle, the Hidra, by famed Italian automobile designer Leonardo Fioravanti of Pininfarina fame, opened up the possibility of windshields unfettered by ubiquitous, but thoroughly inelegant wipers. The Hidra, a five-door, four-seat futuristic beauty relies first on its sleek, aerodynamic design to allow rain and debris to roll off more efficiently. The vehicle?s windshield, however, also employs a sophisticated four-layer cleaning system dubbed the ?Geyser? that utilizes nanotechnology for self-maintenance.
The first layer of the Geyser windshield is based on the use of titanium dioxide that serves to provide ultraviolet protection while distributing accumulated water evenly across the surface of the glass. Without the beading common in typical windshields, visibility is automatically enhanced by the hydrophobic properties. Nano-dust particles in the second layer serve to push accumulated debris to the edges of the windshield where small, embedded nozzles blow the material away to the side. The third layer serves a monitoring function, actually alerting the second layer to the presence of dirt and the need to start working. The fourth layer, which has the ability to conduct electricity, is the power plant behind the whole operation.
The Geyser system not only greatly enhances the safety of the vehicle by insuring maximum visibility at all times, but from a design standpoint, opens up the range of possible form factors for the windshield itself since the need to fit wipers to the glass surface no longer exists. The Geyser windshield is fully functional in the Hidra prototype and its designers predict it could go into mass production for use in this and other cars within five years.
Nanotechnology has been increasingly incorporated into vehicle surface treatments to protect both the paint and the surface of the windshield. For instance a product called NanoSafeguard Auto Glass Sealant promises to coat a car?s windows to create an environment with only minimal contact to foreign matter. The greatest advantage to such treatments is that they make cleaning dirt and dead insects away without the need for cleaning agents and hard, physical scrubbing. The Geyser system takes this concept to a much higher level of evolution, however, and as a self-contained system which eliminates the need to apply sealants, should appeal to other carmakers looking to incorporate the technology into their products.
The Hidra coupe, conceived in Fioravanti?s studio in Moncalieri, Turin, is itself a lovely, elegant car of the future, but its windshield technology more than the vehicle itself attracted attention in Geneva. Illustrating the perfect marriage of innovation and standard automotive functionality, the Hidra, equipped with the Geyser windshield, promises to change the way drivers think about maintaining their window on the driving world.