Research aims to find an isocyanate-free alternative for military coatings

A new technology will have the potential to significantly reduce environmental impact while improving the overall effect on human health and safety.

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Vijay Mannari, a professor of polymers and coatings at Eastern Michigan University (EMU), has been awarded a EUR473,800 grant to develop environmentally responsible, but high performance coatings for the U.S. military.

Research program is expected to start this spring

The Strategic Environmental Research Development Program (SERDP) advisory board approved Mannari's research proposal “Non-Isocyanate Polyurethane Platform for Sustainable and Advanced Rain Erosion Resistant Coatings.” The research program is expected to start this spring. SERDP is a federal multi-agency organisation comprised of the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and the Environment Protection Agency who fund highly competitive proposals selected from among industries, academia and federal laboratories.

Developing greener and safer coating materials

“This award not only recognises our capabilities for advanced research and development in coatings, but it will also provide opportunities for me and our students to explore new frontiers in developing greener and safer coating materials,” said Mannari. “Our research aims at replacing these toxic coatings with safer alternatives, without compromising performance.

Isocyanates are toxic and very hazardous

Currently, the military (Department of Defense) uses polyurethane coatings for many of its applications because they’re durable and perform well. However, the polymers use a group of chemical compounds called isocyanates, which are toxic and very hazardous for human health and safety. This is why there is a lot of interest across the globe, to limit or eliminate the use of isocyanates.

Developing isocyanate-free polyurethane coatings

By leveraging alternative chemistry and customising formulations, Mannari’s research will not only develop isocyanate-free polyurethane coatings, but these coatings will also have significantly lower VOC (volatile organic compounds), that will cure in a much shorter time compared to those currently being used in industry. “This is a remarkable achievement for Eastern Michigan and for our Polymers and Coatings program,” said Mohamed Qatu, dean of the College of Technology. “This reinforces our reputation as a national leader in research in this field.”

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