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Research Seeks Safer Military Coatings

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

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A professor at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) has secured funding to develop environmentally responsible, but high-performance coatings U.S. military aircraft and shipboard surfaces.

Dr. Vijay Mannari, a professor of polymers and coatings at EMU, has been awarded a $529,000 grant through the Strategic Environmental Research Development Program (SERDP), an interagency organization that identifies and develops environmental technologies that directly relate to defense mission readiness.

The SERDP selected Mannari for funding based on his research proposal titled "Non-Isocyanate Polyurethane Platform for Sustainable and Advanced Rain Erosion Resistant Coatings.”

“This award not only recognizes our capabilities for advanced research and development in coatings, but it will also provide opportunities for me and our students to explore new frontiers in developing greener and safer coating materials,” Mannari said in the university’s statement.

Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft
Photos: United States Department of Defense

Dr. Vijay Mannari has been awarded a $529,000 grant to develop environmentally responsible, but high-performance coatings U.S. military aircraft and shipboard surfaces.

“Our research aims at replacing these toxic coatings with safer alternatives, without compromising performance,” he added.

Mannari, who joined the Polymers and Coatings Program at EMU in 2002, established and oversees a rigorous research program primarily focusing on environmentally friendly polymeric materials for development of advanced coatings.

Military Coatings Requirements

Mannari’s inspiration for the SERDP project stemmed from the fact that, currently, the Department of Defense relies on polyurethane coatings for many of its applications because of their ability to meet the military’s strict on-site application/curing and performance requirements.

However, these erosion-resistant coatings have high volatile organic compound (VOC) and hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions and use hazardous and toxic isocyanate compounds, he explained. These compounds are toxic and very hazardous for human health and safety.

Modern water-borne polyurethane coatings, which boast significantly lower VOCs and HAPs, aren’t acceptable for DOD use because of their inefficient film formation. Additionally, their longer drying times mean they can’t be used for multi-coat on-site applications and ambient cure conditions, the proposal noted.

Eliminating Hazards

By leveraging alternative chemistry and customizing formulations, Mannari plans to lead his group not only to develop isocyanate-free polyurethane coatings, but to develop coatings with significantly lower VOCs that will cure in a much shorter time compared to those currently being used in industry.

Specifically, the team will work on developing two distinct types of coating systems—a two-component high-solids non-isocyanate polyurethane (NIPU) coating and a 100 percent solid UV-curable NIPU coating—that will be spray applied on-site and cured using portable UV sources, according to the proposal.

UV-curable coatings have not previously been used for such military applications but can now be used because of the commercial availability of portable UV-cure equipment, Mannari explained.

U.S. Navy and Marine Corps aircraft fly over USS Nimitz

Mannari plans to develop isocyanate-free polyurethane coatings and coatings with significantly lower VOCs that will cure in a much shorter time compared to those currently being used in industry.

Finally, as part of the project, Mannari’s team will also prepare a strategic transition plan to put this new coating technology to work in the field through cooperative development with the industrial partners and the end-user DOD sites, he wrote.

The research program is scheduled to start this spring and is expected to wrap up in 2019.


SERDP is a federal multi-agency organization comprised of the DOD, the Department of Energy and the Environment Protection Agency.

Congress established SERDP in 1990 to address DOD environmental issues, and, as a truly integrated program, SERDP involves all three agencies in the development of its research agenda and management of resulting projects.

The group issues an annual solicitation for proposals from the federal government, academia and industry and employs a competitive selection process to ensure that SERDP funds the highest quality research.


Tagged categories: Coating Materials; Coatings Technology; Colleges and Universities; Department of Defense (DOD); Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Green coatings; Isocyanate; Low-VOC; Military; North America; Polyurethane; Research and development; U.S. Department of Energy; UV curing

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