| Connect Follow us on Twitter Like us on Facebook
About | Subscribe | Advertise


Download our free e-book! Surface Preparation & Safety

Paint and Coatings Industry News

Main News Page

NASA Paint Sprays Away New Car Smell

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

More items for Coating Materials

Comment | More

Love it or hate it, that “new car smell” is not healthy—or, it turns out, good for sensitive satellite instruments—driving NASA to find a way to spray it away.

For some people, NASA notes, “the best part about buying a new car is its factory-fresh new car smell, a distinctive aroma created when the chemicals and residual solvents used to manufacture dashboards, car seats, carpeting and other vehicle appointments outgas and fill the cabin.”

Many researchers, however, consider this “outgassing” so unhealthy that they recommend that drivers keep their new cars ventilated while driving.

NASA engineers have also found that outgassed solvents, epoxies, lubricants, and other materials can adhere to contamination-sensitive telescope mirrors, thermal-control units, high-voltage electronic boxes, cryogenic instruments, detectors and solar arrays, potentially shortening their lives.

Spray Solution

Thus, a group of agency technologists has created a low-cost, easy-to-apply solution that they say is more effective than current techniques.

Nithin Abraham - NASA outgassing paint
NASA / Pat Izzo

NASA Goddard technologist Nithin Abraham studies a paint sample in her lab. Her team has developed a low-cost coating that protects sensitive spacecraft components from outgassed contaminants.

Their answer: a patent-pending sprayable paint that adsorbs these gaseous molecules and stops them from affixing to instrument components.

Made of zeolite, a mineral widely used in industry for water purification and other uses, and a colloidal silica binder that acts as the glue holding the coating together, the new molecular adsorber is highly permeable and porous—attributes that trap the outgassed contaminants, according to NASA.

Because the paint does not contain volatile organics, the material itself doesn’t cause additional outgassing.

“It looks promising,” said principal investigator Sharon Straka, an engineer who is leading the research at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. “It collects significantly more contaminants than other approaches.”

Shedding ‘Big, Heavy and Chunky’

Instrument developers now use zeolite-coated cordierite devices that look like hockey pucks to control outgassing. Each “puck” has only limited adsorbing capabilities, however, requiring instrument designers to install multiple units with complex mounting hardware.

“These devices are big, heavy and chunky, and take up a lot of real estate,” explained co-principal investigator Mark Hasegawa, of NASA Goddard.

The new paint, however, overcomes these limitations by providing a low-mass alternative. Technicians can spray the paint directly onto surfaces, with no need for mounting equipment.

Technicians can even coat adhesive strips or tape and place them in strategic locations within an instrument, spacecraft cavity, or vacuum system, further simplifying adsorber design.

NASA outgassing spray paint

This is a close-up view of the highly porous, sprayable coating that Goddard technologists created to attract and then trap outgassed contaminants that harm spacecraft components.

“This is an easy technology to insert at a relatively low risk and cost,” Hasegawa said. “The benefits are significant.”

(Other coating researchers are developing materials to fight contaminants in cars that are no longer new.)

Defense and Space Applications

The material has already caught the eye of Northrop Grumman; the European Space Agency; the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder; and Spica Technologies of Hollis, NH, according to NASA.

NASA’s ICESat2 ATLAS project is also evaluating its use, pending the outcome of additional tests, she said. The Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2), an Earth observing system, is due to launch in January 2016.

Ready to Launch

Straka’s team plans to tweak its recipe to enhance the paint’s performance and experiment with different pigments, mainly black, to create a coating to absorb stray light that can overcome the light scientists actually want to gather.

Straka also believes the technology could be used on the International Space Station or future space habitats to trap pollutants and odors in crew quarters.

“We’re ready for prime time,” she said. “The coating is undergoing qualification tests and is ready for infusion into flight projects or ground vacuum systems.”


Tagged categories: Coating chemistry; Emissions; Epoxy; Health and safety; NASA; Protective coatings; Research; Solvents; VOC emissions

Comment from Fred Wittenberg, (11/27/2012, 7:03 PM)

Knowing for years how dangerous the release of all these artificial components in car interiors are, I always "air-out" the vehicle by leaving windows open in warm weather. The sun literally cooks the materials inside. I don't care how dusty it gets. Dirt can be (HEPA) vacuumed up. With the high incidence of asthma in children, they shouldn't be subjected to this. Also, flame retardant chemicals can be harmful to child-bearing women.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (11/29/2012, 11:01 AM)

Fred, it's not just'd be surprised what's in a modern house (especially a new modern house!). Maybe that can make a version for interior paint too.

Comment from Mark Schilling, (11/30/2012, 9:21 AM)

"New car smell" is primarily due to dioctyl phthalate, an ester plsticizer used in vinyl plastics. It is not a flame retardant (per Fred's comments). It is unbound to the polymer and it can be "cooked out." The trouble is, when that happens the item may begin to shrink and crack. And M. Halliwell has it right - this common plasticizer is not just in cars. It's in lots of items, including vinyl shower curtains. And phthalate esters have been used in paints. The thing to remember is - if you can smell it, it isn't all in the thing, something is in your nose. (And maybe it's not good for you.)

Comment from Linda O'Neill, (6/27/2013, 9:26 AM)

I have a problem with off gassing how do you detect what substance is actually causing the off gassing. The apartment is 2 years old now and something is still off gassing. Can anyone help?

Comment Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.

Mitsubishi Gas Chemical America
Performance Amine 1,3-BAC

A highly reactive cycloaliphatic diamine offering superior performance. Reasonable cost and curing efficacy makes it suitable for all types of epoxy resin applications.

Sherwin-Williams Protective & Marine Coatings

With 4,000 distribution points and 3,700+ years of experience, Sherwin-Williams delivers the products, support and expertise you need, right where you need it.

New resins from BASF will have metals loving water:

Excellent corrosion resistance, low VOC, high gloss, thin films

Wasser High-Tech Coatings Inc.
Wasser Coatings Protect

Wasser Coatings offer a complete range of Moisture Cure Urethane (NEPCOAT approved) systems in addition to Polyurea membranes and linings(NSF).

International Paint LLC

International Paint Engineered Coatings

Learn about our solutions for:
  • Structural Steel
  • Piping & Equipment
  • Storage Tanks
  • Pressure Vessels
  • Secondary Containment

    Carboline Company
    Hydrocarbon Fire & Jet Fire Protection

    Pyroclad X1 is the latest breakthrough in epoxy based intumescent fireproofing technology

    Jessup Manufacturing Company
    More Traction for Extreme Marine Conditions

    Jessup Safety Track® 3800 Military Grade peel-and-stick non-skid tapes and treads provide extra slip resistance for decks. MIL-PRF-24467C Type XI, Black & Gray.

    Built for Tough Jobs

    From Epoxies to Urethanes to other high solid coatings, the new Binks Airless 75 delivers a great finish using an ergonomic design. Visit for more information.

    Thermion Inc
    Buy Back Program

    We are offering $5,000
    credit for your old Model
    This drive system is
    being discontinued by
    the manufacturer.
    More information at

    Polyval Coatings
    Polyflex® Polyurea Linings

    Polyflex™ new Polyurea Geotextile Membrane System has been specifically engineered to protect the environment in containment applications.

    Technology Publishing

    The Technology Publishing Network

    The Journal of Protective Coatings & Linings (JPCL) PaintSquare
    Durability + Design Paint BidTracker

    EXPLORE:      JPCL   |   PaintSquare News   |   Interact   |   Buying Guides   |   Webinars   |   Resources   |   Classifieds
    REGISTER AND SUBSCRIBE:      Free PaintSquare Registration   |   Subscribe to JPCL   |   Subscribe to PaintSquare News
    MORE:      About   |   Privacy policy   |   Terms & conditions   |   Site Map   |   Search   |   Contact Us

    © Copyright 2000-2015, Technology Publishing / PaintSquare, All rights reserved
    2100 Wharton Street, Suite 310, Pittsburgh PA 15203-1951; Tel 1-412-431-8300; Fax 1-412-431-5428; E-mail