Chemistry Corner: Improved Paint Chemistry and the World Around Us Reply

Commercial painting plays a pivotal role in the world around us. From the appearance of buildings and automobiles to the protection of structures and machinery, we’ve already covered many of the myriad uses paint has in everyday life here on the Gardner Laboratories blog.

Have you ever stopped to consider that what you see every day when looking around is not the only end result of paint and painting?  What about the harmful byproducts or side-effects resulting from so much paint being used every day?  Literally billions of gallons of paint are applied each year and even with continued efforts by manufacturers, VOC and harmful emissions are never completely absent.  What about the carbon footprint of not just the paint itself, but all the energy and resources used to manufacturer it in the first place?

Paint chemistry is ever changing.

A paint chemist in a laboratory.
Image courtesy of Microblend Tech.

Paint is by its very nature a toxic substance. Even with the elimination of lead and oil as key ingredients, paint is still comprised of substances that must be controlled and measured at all stages, lest they cause an environmental or heath disaster.

One of the challenges for paint chemists the world over is meeting not only regulatory compliance but also being proactive to improve paint chemistry in a variety of ways. More specifically, dealing with a product or substance that is inherently dangerous in a number of ways means that chemists must be vigilant in always looking for ways to improve paint products and additives. However, the benefits of improved paint chemistry can pay dividends in a number of ways. For example, a breakthrough that allows light colored paint to more easily cover a surface means not only cost reduction, but also a reduction in the toxic fumes that result from paintwork.  Even minor developments in paint chemistry can have profound ramifications down the line.

One such recent chemical breakthrough of note involved scientists restructuring latex binders in a way that helps paint cover substrates more evenly.  The practical impact of this breakthrough is significant: better coverage means fewer coats are required.  Fewer coats mean fewer toxic emissions, spillage, and a reduced carbon footprint.  In other words, a superior paint product brings with it a number of benefits that may not be seen when the paint dries, but are no doubt felt by the community and environment as a whole. One scientist even called this development one of the most significant in the last half-century.

Dr. Hinkley in his lab

Working to make environmentally friendly paint.
Image courtesy of Callaghan Innovations

Improved paint chemistry can mean the reduction of certain expensive or energy inefficient chemicals like titanium dioxide (used as a white pigment) or the creation of paints that also act as primers, thus further reducing the VOCs and toxic byproducts of painting. The combined results can improve paint materials exponentially; a small chemical improvement of paint or an additive in the lab can lead to significant improvements in the workplace and surrounding environment.

With chemists working every day to create products that are more efficient and more effective, the true benefits of improved paint chemistry are only just now starting to be seen.  Click here to read more about paint chemistry here at the Chemistry Corner with BYK!

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