Coating and adhesive technology continues to advance at a very rapid pace. Announcements of interesting resin and formulated products with novel functionalities appear almost daily. Some come from academic researchers and may not have practical applications in the short term but clearly have the potential for significant future impacts. Others come from new or established coatings manufacturers and are intended for commercialization. Below are three examples of recent announcements that demonstrate the breadth of development underway in the coatings and adhesives sector. While these technologies are intended for widely disparate applications, they all have one thing in common: each, in some manner, provides a sustainable solution.
Electricity-Generating Flexible Glass
SolarWindow Technologies has produced a flexible glass “veneer” that is as thin as a business card and generates electricity. The company produced the flexible glass by laminating layers of its transparent, electricity-generating liquid coatings, which generate electricity under natural, artificial, low, shaded, and even reflected light conditions, onto Corning® Willow® Glass under the high pressure and high temperatures typically involved in commercial glass and window manufacturing. The company’s intent is to install these thin, glass veneers over existing windows in large, tall buildings, enabling the generation of electricity and reduction of the carbon footprint of the structures. SolarWindow also sees opportunities for the generation of electricity in the transportation (cars, trucks, buses, airplanes, etc.) and recreation (boats, RVs, etc.) industries. The SolarWindowä products are being developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA). The primary development goal of the CRADA is the commercialization of SolarWindow products. NREL sees the ability to use lower-cost, roll-to-roll manufacturing technologies as a real advantage. In addition, according to SolarWindow, its coating technology has been independently validated to generate 50-times the power of a conventional rooftop solar system and achieves a one-year payback when modeled on a 50-story building.
A Different Kind of Silk Fiber
Interest has grown in recent years in the production of fibers that mimic spider silk because of its interesting properties. German company AMSilk, for instance, offers soft and flexible Biosteel® fiber. Recently, the firm has been supporting research at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research focused on developing a commercial process for the production of the silk produced by the green lacewing to support its eggs on the undersides of leaves. This silk is extremely rigid and stable and exhibits interesting mechanical properties that make it attractive for the formulation of biocompatible coatings for medical implants and as a reinforcement fiber for lightweighting of materials used in the transportation sector. Bacteria have been genetically engineered to produce the green lacewing silk protein, and the researchers are in the process of optimizing the manufacturing process for large-scale, low-cost production so the material can be further developed. The project is being funded by the Agency for Renewable Resources (FNR), a project management organization of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture in Germany.
Biodegradable and Reusable Adhesive Resin
Large quantities of painters’ tape end up in landfills because the material is not reusable. It is also not biodegradable, so it is a waste issue for the painting industry. Researchers at Kansas State University have patented a biobased resin derived from soybean, corn, and other plant oils (rather than plant-based fatty acids) that could solve this problem. They claim adhesives based on the resin adhere to surfaces for longer periods of time, have longer shelf lives, and are more water-resistant than previously developed biobased alternatives. In addition to the formulation of re-adherable painters’ tape, labels, packing tapes, stationery notes, etc., the resin can be used for the preparation of shiny coatings for wood, paper, and even flexible food packaging. The project has received funding from the Kansas Soybean Commission, the United Soybean Board, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The Kansas State University Research Foundation, a nonprofit corporation responsible for managing technology transfer activities at the university, holds the patent.