A revolutionary powder coating technology that is said to eliminate solid and liquid waste and VOC emissions during application has won Australia’s top science honor.
The system, developed over more than a decade by Dr. Voytek Gutowski, addresses the enormous environmental and health hazards of solvent-based liquid paint wasted during spray application to vehicles.
|Dr. Voytek Gutowski shows off car parts coated with his zero-waste technology, commercialized by Dulux.|
Spray transfer in such applications is notoriously poor, with only 30-35 percent of the wet spray paint sticking to the surface, researchers say. The inefficiency leads to massive landfilling of wasted paint solids and a release of VOC emissions that is second only to exhaust fumes in environmental hazards posed by vehicles, they say.
The technology developed by Gutowski, Chief Research Scientist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Australia's national science agency, improves the adhesion of electrostatic powder coating, eliminating the need for liquid spray paint in these applications.
The technology uses solvent-free resin that allows powder coatings, paints and inks better “stickability” on plastics, CSIRO says.
The discovery has earned Gutowski the 2011 Eureka Prize for Commercialization of Innovation, which carries a $10,000 cash award. The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are the most prestigious awards in Australian science.
‘First True Zero-Waste Coating’
“Professor Gutowski has developed the first true zero-waste coating technologies that completely eliminate solid and liquid waste, volatile organic chemicals and the use of water in a range of industries that need to powder-coat products," said Frank Howarth, director of the Australian Museum.
“This goes well beyond car production and has the potential to transform manufacturing industries that make painted plastic components for cars, aircraft, furniture and buildings.”
Already in use in Australia and overseas—Dulux Powder Coatings commercialized the technology in 2007-08—the technology can be applied for coating of exterior and interior components of a vehicle. The technology is expected to save the Australian automotive industry $100 million per year, Eureka officials said. The industry uses about 10 million liters of liquid paint a year.
Increasing Surface Conductivity
The technology is based on engineering an interface on the surface of non-conductive material, such as plastic, to drastically increase its surface conductivity and enhance coating adhesion, the awards body reported.
This gives plastics the same transfer efficiencies as metal when using electrostatic powder-coating.
“The end result is 100 percent transfer efficiency (no waste) of a solvent-less coating (not harmful to human health or the environment) with excellent adhesion (it stays on),” Eureka officials said in a statement.
|Mark Spicer, a researcher at Australia’s national science agency, used a robot in 2008 to test the coating technology.|
Surface modification technologies developed by Gutowski can be used with polymers, composites, ceramics and organic materials such as wood and natural fibers. His technologies are presently being employed by General Motors, Ford, Boeing and other major international companies, Eureka officials said.
The Eureka Prize for Commercialization of Innovation, sponsored by the international mining group Rio Tinto, recognizes commercialization of an innovation within the past 10 years that can be shown to have created significant value within Australia.
Gutowski’s breakthrough, in development for more than a decade, has drawn honors before. In 2008, the technology took the Premier’s Sustainability Award. In 2010, Voytek was awarded the $50,000 Victoria Prize for his work.