For a brief moment Sunday night, the Vince Lombardi Trophy sparkled. But this is football, where even the shiniest objects get quickly covered in sweat and smudges.
The Patriots happily held up their end of that deal after winning the Super Bowl in overtime, lining up in sweaty rows to cover the trophy with enough fingerprints and smooches to make one of the most coveted awards in sports look kind of gross.
People who watched this grubby spectacle on high-definition broadcasts quickly joked on Twitter that modern science really should find a way to keep the sterling silver trophy clean.
It turns out the peanut gallery isn’t too far off. NBD Nanotechnologies, a Boston startup company using technology developed at MIT, has developed coatings it says can make fingerprints on glass and metal objects invisible. Could it possibly protect the Lombardi trophy from exuberant — and sweaty — football players?
Here’s how it works: NBD technicians can make a coating that simultaneously attracts oil and repels water. When the oils from a fingerprint hit that coating, they spread out into a thin layer. That allows light to pass through, rendering the would-be smudge invisible, NBD president Deckard Sorensen said.
NBD is currently marketing its coatings for use on other fingerprint-prone surfaces, such as smartphone touchscreens, appliances, and bathroom fixtures. Sorensen said it hasn’t yet tested its product on metals as shiny as the highly polished Lombardi Trophy, which is produced at a Tiffany & Co. workshop in Rhode Island.
But after inspecting a photo of the smudged trophy, made up of a gently concave triangular tower and a regulation-size football, he sounded optimistic.
“The answer is potentially. We just haven’t tried too much with shiny surfaces, but it’s definitely something that we are investigating,” Sorensen said. “We have shown on curved metal surfaces that we can reduce fingerprints.”
Tiffany, while noting that the trophy is “crafted with utmost quality and greatness in every detail,” declined to speculate on the possibility of using special coatings to keep the Lombardi’s surface pristine.
It looks like the white-gloved attendants will still have a job, at least for the near future.