BASF has launched Constellation Colors, an experimental line for automotive application that will make colors on vehicles visible at night. The company first unveiled the Constellation Colors in June on the Saleen S7R race car which ran in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France. (The company revealed that it was experimenting with this technology in our March 2001 issue, p. 46).
“Making colors visible at night introduces a whole new thinking “ said Jon Hall, manager of color development at BASF’s automotive OEM coatings regional business unit. “Aesthetically, these new materials make the normal, beautiful colors as visible on cars at night as they are during the day. And from a safety standpoint, this capability enables cars and trucks to be more readily seen when it’s dark.”
There are two coating systems being explored by BASF. The first uses a “retroreflection pigment” that illuminates cars when exposed to a light source, similar to that seen in protective clothing, street signs and safety markers. “Through this approach, the effect of seeing color at night is achieved through combining the pigment’s refractive index with a special reflective coating on one side of the pigment,” added Mr. Hall. When headlights hit the coating, it “lights up or sparkles,” he said.
The second is a glow-in-the-dark coating that can be turned off and on via a low-voltage electrical charge. “Using an electroluminescent pigment, BASF research has produced automotive coatings that can glow with different, long-lasting colors at night,” said Mr. Hall of the company’s proprietary pigment and electrical field produced in the coating.