Interview: “The forecast on research and applications of functional coatings is very optimistic”
What functionalities in coatings are in the focus of research at the moment?
Dr. Eva García-Lecina: Research is at the moment focused on the development of tailored functionalities not found in traditional protective or tribological coatings such as anti-contaminant, scratch resistance, anti-fogging, anti-icing, easy-to-clean, self-healing or anti-glare properties, driven by new markets and needs. As an example, in the automotive sector, the extensive introduction of touch screen monitors and displays is promoting the development of anti-glare and anti-fingerprint transparent coatings, which combine hydrophobic and oleophobic properties. In addition, the increasing incorporation of vehicle sensing systems as radomes and cameras, is promoting the research on coatings with radar transparency, anti-ice and anti-dust functionalities that protect and do not interfere with the function of the system. On the other hand, the trends in shared mobility brings about new challenges dealing with cleanliness issues, pushing new research on easy-to-clean and anti-bacterial coatings.
With regard to aeronautics, research in functional coatings is orientated to a variety of properties, as anti-contamination coatings and cleaning solutions for laminar wings, which could reduce insect accretion, or anti-ice smart coatings that combat the ice formation on aircraft wings, contributing to decrease emissions and noise pollution.
For which functionalities to you see the most potential to become ready for the market?
Dr. Eva García-Lecina
Director CIDETEC Surface Engineering
García-Lecina: There is already a range of functional coatings commercially available, covering functionalities such as self-cleaning, anti-ice, anti-bacterial or anti-fingerprint. However, despite the fact that the functionality of these coatings has been successfully proved, there are still some drawbacks that prevent the extensive use of these coatings and their suitability for some applications. For example, further research is needed to increase the control, maintenance and long-term stability of some formulations, to develop easy-to-apply and reproducible application methods, to increase the mechanical durability of the coatings and to make the technologies more cost effective. On the other hand, new coating functionalities require new test protocols and devices, not yet fully developed.
Do you see overall trends in functional coatings?
García-Lecina: The forecast on research and applications of functional coatings is very optimistic for the next years. In relation to already developed functional coatings, efforts are foreseen to overcome the challenges already listed that will improve the market readiness of the innovations. Moreover, an overall trend is envisage to look for more eco and bio-based formulations and to combine properties looking for multifunctionality, contributing to fulfill new market demands and improve the social wellness.