PAINTS OF THE FUTURE
Growth in the paints and coatings market continues to pick up pace and enduser preferences and regulatory requirements are shifting the market towards disruptive technologies such as Big Data and multifunctional/ smart coatings, compelling coating companies to move beyond product manufacturing to become total solution providers.
The development of smart/ multifunctional coating systems and technologies, such as self-healing and anti-corrosion coatings are presenting tremendous growth and high-value opportunities for coating
The development of smart/ multifunctional coating systems and technologies, such as selfhealing and anticorrosion coatings are presenting tremendous growth and high-value opportunities for coating companies
companies across specific industrial and infrastructural sectors like manufacturing and oil and gas.
Smart coatings are innovative coatings that can react spontaneously, due to inbuilt stimuli-responsive mechanisms. The functionality obtained from these class of coatings at the metal-solution
interface in aggressive environments has led to advances in anticorrosion studies and applications. The presence of high-quality nanoparticles in coating formulations contribute to tougher, more reliable coatings which have triggered unprecedented functionalities in smart coatings.
The smart coatings respond to single/ multiple external stimuli such as light, dirt, pH changes, temperature, aggressive liquids, bio-foulant, impact, fatigue etc; and have demonstrated outstanding, barrier properties with scratch resistance, in-situ healing, superhydrophobicity, superoleophilicity, high optical transmission, thermal stability, and resistance to strong acids etc., resulting in extended service life of the coatings and the protected metallic materials. The utilization of these smart coatings in complex, real-time conditions, effectively controls the triggers of metallic degradation, structural failures, and resource depletion.
All of this suggests that smart coatings (and smart materials more generally) will be a substantial business opportunity going forward, and experts in the industry expect to see large firms make substantial investments in this area; some have already. These firms will include not just coatings companies, but also the large glass firms, and other companies higher up the supply chain.
Smart coatings is already a vibrant enough topic to have spawned dozens of R&D projects all over the world, not to mention several conferences. In the near future smart coatings will create protectable intellectual property (IP), avoid commoditization of coatings products and lead to a stream of new products over a sustained period of time.
These trends will have important consequences. The trend towards a better IP environment will attract new attention for the smart coatings business from venture and angel capitalists.
Self-Healing Coatings: The big technological leap forward that experts expect in the area of self-healing coatings is an improvement in terms of the type and size of damage that they can self-heal. While we are not buying the hype on smart coatings someday being able to repair major damage to an aircraft fuselage, there is plenty of room for improvement in today’s self-healing coatings, which are often little more than anti-scratch coatings. However, competition in this space will not be just on what size of hole or scratch a coating can repair, but also on:
1. how long the repair takes (some selfhealing coatings today can take many hours), and
2. the longevity of the coatings
Self-Assembling Coatings: Self-assembling coatings can already demonstrate some impressive advantages, and researchers believe these will only increase as new generations of self-assembling coatings come onto the market. In particular, advanced self-assembling coatings can provide reduction in the cost and ease of manufacturing processes. For example, self-stratifying coatings can already provide a way to eliminate the need for multiple coats. But it seems likely that as self-assembling coatings (and self-assembling materials more generally) evolve, they will become an important part of advanced manufacturing techniques.
Self-Cleaning Coatings: Self-cleaning ovens are ubiquitous, but other selfcleaning coatings and self-cleaning surface opportunities have yet to be exploited because of the absence of suitable coatings, especially coatings with adequate lifetimes. For example, self-cleaning windows have been available on the market since 2001, but they tend not to last long, which is the
reason they have never made it out of the single-family residential sector.
An incentive for developing such coatings is obviously that they provide low maintenance, reduced cleaning time and reduced cost. To best exploit these opportunities, new hydrophilic, hydrophobic, oleophobic, amphiphobic and multifunctional coatings are being developed. Some of the technological trends with reasonable potential in the area of self-cleaning coatings are:
1. nano-technological approaches to textured hydrophobic surfaces; and
2. super-hydrophobic coatings.
Smart Coatings and the IoT: The idea behind IoT is that using embedded sensors and processors, buildings, appliances, machines and objects will become more responsive to human needs in both personal and professional environments, and provide increased functionality and enhanced data collection capabilities.
While smart materials are not being prominently mentioned in current IoT literature, experts in the field see a perfect fit. Ideas include: coatings that clean and repair themselves either automatically or in response to external cues; sensors embedded into coatings and surfaces that collect data and react as needed; and a smart coating that functions as a sensor that serves as a more cost-effective way to create a wide-area sensing panel than a large array of sensing devices. The possibilities in this regard are significant.
Energy and Construction: Much of the market emphasis in the smart coatings space during the past decade has been on the building products sector, with green initiatives being an important driver. However in 2015, the decline in oil prices has not only taken the steam out the energy efficiency story but threatens to curb the resurgent green building sector where self-healing and self-cleaning coatings seemed to have viable applications.
Researchers believe that market opportunities for smart coatings are going to be more limited in the oil and gas sector, compared to what it was initially expected in previous smart coatings market analyses. In particular, it is expected that the smart protective coatings that in the past have been sold to gas and oil firms looking for new wells and deposits will see a decline, as many shale oil firms have radically cut back on their capital expenditures, for example.
However, this does not imply that the decline in the energy sector will last forever, and once energy prices start trending upward in some sustainable way it is expected that the market for energy-related smart coatings will revive.
In the meantime, R&D into new energy technologies continues, and smart coatings may find a role there -in the development of fuel cells, for example. In addition, smart coatings are being developed for use as oil-filtering materials that can completely separate oil and water in an economical manner. And given the regulatory support for eco-friendly oil spill removal solutions, new products based on smart coatings are still likely to be commercially popular.
Also, market researchers see a lot of activity in the self-healing concrete sector, which is in no way dependent on energy prices. It is believed that active smart coatings will remain restricted to new construction activities, because retrofitting applications will remain prohibitively expensive for the majority of consumers.