“Uncertainties concerning marketability may partially challenge and slow down developments of nano-based additives
How important are novel nanomaterials for additive developments and what are the effects of the growing concern regarding these materials?
Jörg Hinnerwisch: Nano-particulates introduced in paints and plastics can augment their properties significantly. Additives based on nano-objects are known to be useful in coating applications in terms of mechanical durability, crack prevention or curtailing contamination. Printing techniques are gaining in popularity in the electronics industry for the manufacture of sensors, applying conductive inks formed using silver nano-additives.
The early 2000s witnessed a nanotechnology hype with groundbreaking new developments, while in recent years existing concerns about nanomaterials have led to lively discussions concerning opportunities and potential risks of this technology. As the extensive safety assessment is ongoing, Byk has participated in several studies and contributed to the public debate. These studies indicate that the nano-additives evaluated are strongly embedded in the cured coating matrix, thus limiting environmental exposure. Yet moving “nano” definitions and changing requirements are constantly increasing the effort required to satisfactorily answer customer inquiries concerning regulatory issues. Nevertheless, nano-based additives appear particularly prone to support sustainability and lightweight trends, as the need for material savings increases. This is matched by the trend towards miniaturisation. In summary, while the technology potential is continuously high considering application demands, uncertainties concerning marketability may partially challenge and slow down developments of nano-based additives.
What technical trends will influence the additive market in the near future?
Hinnerwisch: Mega trends, such as increased environmental consumer awareness and the demand for more sustainable products, will impact the selection and purchasing behavior of DIY and industrial coating solutions. In addition, there is a growing need for so-called smart coatings to design anti-fingerprint, electrically conductive or switchable properties. Lately, the COVID-19 pandemic has boosted the interest in anti-viral surfaces.
Customised additives will play a significant role in realizing these application needs. Even today, such additives are facilitating the utilisation of environmentally-friendly water-borne coatings in corrosive environments or are reducing VOC emissions.
Novel academic concepts will help realize innovative functionalities; emerging technologies will propagate self-healing or adaptive surfaces. Continuous exploration of nascent technologies and academic trends will inspire further additive innovations. Nano-objects, biochemical assemblies or organic super-molecular structures will gain further importance in terms of achieving barrier properties, super-adhesion or anti-viral behavior.
The trend towards the provision of customised solutions in itself will change the way additives are developed. Understanding the customer’s final application and the ability to respond to rapidly changing targets are crucial success factors. Like many other industries, the development of additives is increasingly incorporating digital R&D aspects. Lab automation speeds up experiments and increases repeatability, thus enabling high throughput strategies. Data itself will become an asset that is shared by and with the customer to serve as a foundation for quantitative analyses. It is highly likely that this will lead to additional services and specialised vendors to support simulations, modeling, machine learning and artificial-intelligence-based approaches. While this picture of a digitally enhanced R&D cycle for the additive development might seem like the distant future, this trend is happening at fast pace with increasing efforts.
The interview was conducted by Jan Gesthuizen