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Thursday, 20 February 2020
Raw materials & technologies, Technologies, Functional coatings

Smart paint signals when equipment is too hot to handle

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Researchers have developed a paint for use in coatings and packaging that changes colour when exposed to high temperatures.

The new paint can change colour when exposed to high temperatures
Source: KochPhoto/rangizzz -

The new paint can change colour when exposed to high temperatures
Source: KochPhoto/rangizzz -

It delivers a visual warning to people handling material or equipment with the potential to malfunction, explode, or cause burns when overheated. The technology was commissioned and funded by the U.S. Army Armament Research Development and Engineering Center(ARDEC) at Picatinny Arsenal in response to dangerous conditions in the desert during the war in Iraq, for example, where soldiers reported temperatures near munitions that had sometimes exceeded 190 degrees F, far in excess of the shells’ design limits.

Material turns different shades of colour

"It would have been helpful to have had some sort of a calibrated temperature-triggered signal warning, ‘Don’t go near or pick up this shell!’ ”said Zafar Iqbal, a research professor who led the joint New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT)/ARDEC research. Referred to as a "thermal-indicating composition” and applied as a coating or a mark on packaging, the material turns different shades of colour from blue to red in response to a range of temperatures, beginning at about 95 degrees F. "We essentially modified commercial paints and introduced nanotechnology-based concepts to tailor the trigger temperatures,” Iqbal explained, adding that his laboratory is starting to develop inks related to the paints that can be applied by inkjet printers. His current research leads to a "smart coating” embedded with colour-sensitive materials that indicated how long a substance had been exposed to temperatures high enough to compromise its functionality.

Technology has potentially wider applications

Time-temperature coding is also important for munitions, which can be stored for many years and transported long distances. Until now, there has been no cost-effective means for identifying when munitions have experienced critical exposures, including over a period of several days. Thermal stabilizers incorporated in weapon containers can be depleted by extended exposure to high temperatures. Iqbal said the coding will be included in the thermal-indicating paints as an element of the final product for the Army. The technology has potentially wider applications as well, including as a temperature indicator for factory machines and household appliances and tools signaling they have become dangerously hot, or as a warning to firefighters of the intensity of a fire on the other side of a door coated with the thermal paint. Iqbal is currently developing a related technology that would signal whether a product has been damaged by force, shock or exposure to dangerous chemicals, such as carcinogens, or to radiation.

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