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Thursday, 01 October 2020

Life on Mars and the coatings industry

Tuesday, 7 August 2012 | Posted by: Kirsten Wrede, European Coatings Journal

"Is there life on Mars?" – That’s what David Bowie already asked in his 1970s pop song. The lyrics aren’t all that clear, but to me they are somehow related to disappointment with reality, longing for a greater life somewhere out there. Now NASA’s rover "Curiosity" has landed  successfully on Mars. The mission’s overall question: is the red planet able to sustain life, or has it ever been?

The results of this complex exploration could mark the beginning of a new era, scientists say enthusiastically. Now what does all this have to do with paints and coatings? In my view there is a link between space flight and the paints and coatings industry: even though real break-through solutions cannot be expected in the short run, in both cases great efforts have been made to drive science and research forward. Thus, only persistent and long-term efforts, as well as state-of-the-art technology and great financial support have made the Mars mission possible – even though it’s not clear in how far mankind will immediately benefit from the newly gained insights.

Working at full speed on future solutions

This applies to coatings as well: so far self-repairing car finishes, intelligent coatings that send out warning signals in the case of material fatigue, or biomimetic coating systems are not commercially available, but researchers are working at full speed to push these developments forward. Without these enthusiasts, we would not have waterborne or "green” solutions today, I guess. Who would have thought in the past that a coating could be based on starch or cellulose, formulated without any solvents? So in order to introduce new "eras” in the coatings industry, we also need technology, knowledge, creativity, and financial support, and – last but not least: curiosity.    

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