In this paper, self-cleaning surfaces are investigated as an environmentally benign design option. These surfaces are a biologically inspired concept; first discovered on the lotus plant, micro- and nano-scale surface features aid in contaminant removal. Self-cleaning surfaces have been successfully recreated for engineering applications and appear on a variety of products. Because they can be cleaned with water alone, the use of such a surface could lead to less resource consumption during cleaning, if used in place of more resource intensive current industrial cleaning methods. A screening Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) study is used to determine if environmental benefits are obvious from the use of a self-cleaning surface over the entire life cycle. The study is performed on a chemical self-cleaning coating, selected for its durability, transparency and ease of use. The results of the LCI study are compared to current industrial cleaning practices of aqueous spray or ultrasonic cleaning, including solvent production and use of the cleaning machines. The LCI study reveals that environmental benefits are present in the use (cleaning) phase of a self-cleaning surface. However, when also considering the production of the self-cleaning surface, no clear environmentally superior choice exists. More analysis and evaluation of the production of self-cleaning surfaces is needed to select the more sustainable choice.

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