Navy Laboratory Develops Healthier Topcoat
Earlier this year, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory’s Center for Corrosion Science and Engineering developed what is being billed as a more user-friendly topcoat. The material was applied to the exterior of aircraft belonging to both the Navy and Marine Corps.
Based on organosilane polymers, the topcoat is a one-component polysiloxane that was created without harmful isocyanates and other hazardous air pollutants. Around the time of the announcement, the topcoat was applied to U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornet stationed in Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.
NRL Topcoat Development
Erick Iezzi, Senior Research Chemist at the NRL, was among those to applied the topcoat to the Hornet. The coating applied to the aircraft is set to be evaluated over the next one to two years.
“We’re very proud of this achievement,” Iezzi said. “Polyurethane topcoats have existed for several decades, yet within a few years we’ve been able develop an environmentally friendly alterative that provides similar laboratory performance and is easy for painters to use.”
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued warnings over health concerns associated with exposure to isocyanates, which includes irritation of skin and mucous membranes, chest tightness and difficulty breathing, as well as sensitization, an issue that can result in asthma attacks. (HAPS are also known as a potential carcinogen.)
In replacing isocyanates with polysiloxane, workers’ health is better kept intact. The new coating developed by the NRL also reportedly has lower levels of VOCs. Additionally, the coating does not require any metering or mixing of components due to everything being in one container.
“Developing a new high-performance topcoat for aircraft is more difficult than for ships,” Iezzi said. “Aircraft have aluminum skin, which means the coating must provide greater flexibility, especially at cold temperatures during high-altitude flight. An aircraft topcoat must also retain a camouflage appearance for longer periods of time.”
The product was developed in collaboration with the Naval Air Systems Command and sponsored by the Defense Department’s Environmental Security Technology Certification Program, and received additional financial assistance from the Office of Naval Research.