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The coatings industry has always included segments that have worked as drivers for the implementation of high-tech innovations across various industries, particularly among early adopters like sports, home appliances and construction. It has also triggered the further development of other industries, such as electronics, energy, medical equipment, automotive and aerospace.
The use of new advanced materials is changing many matured industries and this includes the coatings industry as well. Coatings face new challenges for which there is a need for more innovative solutions resulting in new concepts and methods in formulating coatings.
The word “smart coating” emerged recently to define a new generation of coatings. Even though there are many product categories, they all have the common trait of being able to sense and interact with their environment and offer functional value beyond those of protection and decoration. Research reports have predicted that the global smart coatings market will grow over 30 percent annually until 2025 with more than USD 1 billion in total net sales.
The introduction of innovative pigments, binders and additives is broadening the spectrum of properties and performance that can be obtained through coatings. Among many others, benefits include:
Among the new advanced materials incorporated into these traditional product categories (pigments, binders and additives) are nanomaterials and graphene.
Nanomaterials, which uses the different physical and chemical behavior of small objects, are a good example of how a new boundary of properties (electrical or thermal conductivity, bio-protection, barrier properties, photo-sensitivity) can be easily incorporated into a coating to provide innovative performance through a vast number of chemistries.
Meanwhile, graphene is probably the most rapidly growing material within nanomaterials. Its properties have been proven and well-documented in recent years. Its physical, mechanical, optical and electronic properties make it useful for a wide range of applications including aerospace, wearable electronics, sports, medical, construction, batteries and other energy storage systems. In coatings applications, they are used to protect planes from lightning strikes and boats from corrosion.
Therefore, the coatings industry using established technology has seen over the last decade the commercial use of many new advanced materials and process technologies. They include atomic layer deposition, chemical vapor deposition and physical vapor deposition; all used to develop lighter, thinner, highly advanced and chemically complex coatings for high-tech applications.
These types of advanced coatings usually have a higher cost consideration. However, it comes with potentially better performance benefits that can be widely used across many applications in the years ahead. It will take some time for us to see these new materials and technologies being a normal part of coatings formulations and processes.
In the case of nanomaterials, we will need to develop more knowledge on their related risks and safety requirements, build further understanding and conduct more testing when scaling-up their use in complex fabrication processes.
At DKSH, our coatings team is constantly working together with many of the industry’s chemical leaders and experts to support our customers and the best ways to introduce and formulate different available advanced materials to be used for their coatings solutions and business needs.
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Ramon J. Viñas is based in Spain and has a Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering and an MBA.He is currently DKSH’s Vice President, Global Specialty Chemicals Industry, Performance Materials.