Marine coatings: “Increased need for cooperation”
In how far do environmental regulations impact R+D of raw materials for marine coatings?
Peter van Aken: Environmental regulations are critical for ensuring that products are safe, do not impact on human health or the environment and are sustainable. However, speaking as a biocide supplier, these regulations represent a significant barrier to innovation, and bringing new products to the market is very difficult. Registration costs are high and an upfront investment is required. Time to market is in the range of 7 to 10 years and there is much uncertainty because the regulatory framework keeps changing. In addition, there are technical challenges to overcome. Regulatory considerations are one of the first concerns when deciding to further investigate any new raw material offerings. Unless there is a good probability of being reasonably safe for humans and the environment, a new raw material technology will not be allocated a great deal of development time. Regulatory experts are always brought into the planning of new raw materials very early in the development stage.
Therefore, there is an increased need for cooperation between industry, the academic world and start-up companies. Luckily, new technologies are still being introduced, but their efficacy has yet to be proven. And, whilst not all technologies are biocide-based, the potential impact on human health and the environment is unknown. Performance track records will steer ship owners’ decisions and determine which solutions are viable on the market.
How can novel raw materials help to prevent corrosion in marine environments?
Van Aken: A wide range of factors contribute to corrosion and coating failure. While novel inhibitors play a key role in anticorrosion protection, functional additives can also enhance performance. New technologies are being developed that improve coating hydrophobicity with a view to preventing coating damage, which essentially is the starting point for eventual coating failure and corrosion problems.
In this regard, additives that prevent fouling by marine organisms ultimately contribute to overall anticorrosion protection. They achieve this in part by stopping fouling organisms from attaching themselves to and / or growing on the coating surface, thereby preventing them from doing damage. A secondary effect is the prevention of corrosion mechanisms that can be induced by fouling.
What projects on marine coatings are you currently involved in?
Van Aken: We have an in-house development pipeline that draws on our wide expertise in various technologies. We have projects which can make contributions to anticorrosive paints, but we also have a very interesting project which will support the use of biocides more efficiently in antifouling paints. Via IPPIC, we are contributing to an IMO-sponsored project called GloFouling, a project which helps to implement IMO regulations for avoiding invasive species. Further, we have been participating in ByeFouling, a European Commission-subsidised project for novel antifouling technologies. New polymers for antifouling are being investigated. We have over a year of raft testing on several new polymers that perform very well compared to current self-polishing polymers.
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