ETCC 2018: “Look at mother nature”

The European Technical Coatings Congress (ETCC) brought 425 experts from 43 countries together. This year the event was held in the Netherlands in cooperation with national associations. The conference offered many outlooks into the future of coatings and a very prominent speaker.

Prof. Ben Feringa who won the Nobel prize for chemistry in 2016 opened the ETCC 2018 with a lecture on molecular machines. (Picture: Jan Gesthuizen) -

You don’t often see Nobel Prize winners at coatings events, but this year’s ETCC in Amsterdam was an exception. Prof. Ben Feringa from the University of Groningen (photo) seized the opportunity of the ETCC being in his home country to give a plenary lecture on molecular machines. He was honoured with the prestigious award in 2016 for his work in this field. At first glance there seems to be no great overlap between to coatings technology.

However, he presented several examples that proved otherwise, for instance, coatings that can change their wetting behaviour or their transparency. The first effect, for example, is created by Teflon compounds which are bonded to the coatings matrix and can either stick out from the surface to create a hydrophobic coating or be incorporated into the coatings matrix, thereby altering the properties to give more hydrophilic behaviour.

Many of the functionalities Feringa showed were inspired by effects seen in nature. “Look at mother nature, but don’t do it the same way,” he said and explained that nature is very good at giving you the right idea, but that you cannot copy it, since you are not creating a living organism. “A Boeing does not look like a bird,” he stated and explained that bridging the gap between nature and technology is the big challenge. His research is about to get more involved with the coatings industry. The Advanced Research Center – Chemical Building Blocks Consortium (ARC CBBC) is a new flagship program of multinational chemical companies including Akzo Nobel and Dutch research institutions. One of the focus topics of this consortium will be coatings.

Cooperation with CoSi

Malgorzata Kopec, Akzo Nobel

Malgorzata Kopec from Akzo Nobel was awarded for the best scientific lecture.

As is typical for the ETCC, the event had a great variety of lectures that covered practically all the relevant fields for the coatings industry. A not so typical twist was provided by the collaboration with the CoSi conference (Coatings Science International), which is held annually in the Netherlands. The partnership provided the ETCC with a significant number of lectures from the academic world. And even though there were some isolated voices from industry or academic visitors that had little regard for lectures from the other side, the vast majority appreciated the mixture.

Even though it is difficult to name clear trends at conferences of this size with several parallel sessions at all times, some topics are worth a special mention. While there were lectures covering typical topics such as corrosion protection, legislation, low-VOC and water-based coatings, functional coatings stood out.

Functionalities by self-stratification

In terms of functionalities, self-stratifying and self-assembling coatings were among the topics that attracted a great deal of interest. This started with the second plenary lecture, which was given by
Joseph Keddie, who works as a professor at the University of Surrey in the UK. He spoke about his research in trying to understand self-stratification in binary colloidal mixtures. Self-stratification also played a role in other talks, for instance the lecture given by Silfredo Javier Bohorquez from Allnex, who spoke about new fluoropolymer matting agents that can simultaneously act as a hydrophobicity agent in coatings.

Claudio Ferraro, Beiersdorf

Claudio Ferraro, Beiersdorf: “I like the conference, it is very well-organised. I also enjoy the balance between industrial and commercialised and the more futuristic talks like bio-inspired and functional coatings.”

One of the most popular lectures was Dean Webster’s talk about low-adhesion surfaces that are formed by self-stratification. Webster is known for his work in functional, sustainable, and bio-based coating fields at the North Dakota State University in the US. He presented his work on a self-stratifying system, combining polyurethane and PDMS, that works as a fouling-release coating for marine applications. Surprisingly, the coatings also showed good anti-icing functionalities and, according to Webster, they could also work in anti-graffiti applications.

Getting rid of biocides in coatings

Such fouling-release coatings are of special interest because biocide legislation is getting tougher and tougher. So it is of little surprise that other speakers also addressed this topic. Sascha Herrwerth from Evonik, for example, showed how functionalised fumed silica particles can significantly decrease the use of Cu2O in marine anti-fouling coatings. According to his presentation, free Si-OH groups at the coatings surface are probably preventing copper ions from dissolving too quickly into the surrounding water. 

Clarissa Ty, Pfinder

Clarissa Ty, Pfinder: “I really like the variety of the lectures, there is something for everybody. Also, the quality of the lectures is quite good. However, sometimes it is a bit difficult to find the right room.”

If there is one thing the ETCC in Amsterdam made clear, it is that there is still great potential for ground-breaking innovation. Jürgen Omeis, who is Leader of Science Relations at Altana, used his plenary talk on future technologies to mention the possibilities that bio-based materials could offer. Normally, when people talk about this topic they talk about bio-based binders, additives and other raw materials to reduce the use of petrochemical compounds. Omeis did that too, but more importantly he also talked about bio-catalysis. This could be a way to reduce the dependency on metals and heavy metals in the coatings industry. However, he pointed out that the gap between biotech and the coatings industry is still relatively large.

Infrared instead of thermal curing

Babak Biuk Afshari, IUST University

Babak Biuk Afshari, IUST University: “I liked that they gave a special time slot to the poster presentations. In other conferences this is often only limited to coffee or lunch breaks.”

Of course, not everything new at the conference was related to functionality. The talk by Christian Schmitz from Paderborn University gave us something different. Schmitz presented a new technology that allows coatings to be thermally cured without using an oven. He developed a technique that uses a laser system in the near infrared range to induce thermal curing directly in the coating. Thanks to specially developed absorbers, the laser light is converted efficiently into heat. Since only the coating is heated, the technology allows thermal curing on substrates such as paper or textiles – materials that are normally too sensitive for thermal curing. However, the technology is associated with the same obstacles as UV curing. So at least for the moment it only works properly on flat substrates. 

Some of the innovations presented in Amsterdam were already on the market while others still sounded like science fiction. There is still a lot to do and discover. The future of coatings will be interesting.

Jan Gesthuizen

At this year’s Conference five awards were given to speakers and poster presenters:

Best Lecture (FATIPEC): Martin Bosma, Allnex – Phase-stepped defelctometry as a powerful tool to determine the appearance of paints and coatings

Best young scientist contribution (FATIPEC): Andressa Trentin, São Paulo State University – Increased corrosion protection and durability of silica-PMMA hybrid coatings modified with cerium and lithium

Best scientific lecture (CoSi): Malgorzata Kopec, Akzo Nobel – Mechanism of pigments migration in polymer coatings

Best Poster (CoSi): Vincenzo Montano, Delft University  – Identifying the individual contributions of Tg and reversible interactions in near Tg healing polymers: a high resolution rheology-based deconvolution protocol

Alain Clause Award (ATIPIC): Eva Tejada, Covestro –  Self-crosslinking UV-curable polyurethane dispersion making water-borne UV technology more efficient

The next ETCC and Cosi

ETCC 2020: 2 – 4 September, Cracow, Poland
CoSi 2019: 24 – 28 June, Nordwijk, Netherlands

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