Peterbecker2 Peter Becker

»Many companies in our industry did not only win new products in cooperation with research, but also evaluated the products’ health and environmental safety aspects«

»Nanotechnology is a driver in paint development. The trip through the car wash - a nightmare for all proud car owners. Not anymore. Today, the exterior finish of cars is much more scratch-resistant, as automotive paints are so-called "Smart Coatings", intelligent paints. These high-tech products have developed rapidly in recent years. In close cooperation with several universities, the industry has developed self-cleaning paints, for example, as well as conductive and temperature regulating coatings and paints. There are new paints with a chameleon effect: Depending on the temperature, the color changes and with it the pigments’ reflective properties. Up until 20 years ago, corrosion damage to cars was decisive for its depreciation. Rust-buckets practically no longer exist. This can be primarily attributed to immersion primers, but also to clear lacquers. Clear lacquers protect the underlying layers from the effects of UV radiation and weather, like a pair of sunglasses.

The key to this success lies in nanotechnology. Within the last years, it played a vital role in further improving the mere 0.1 millimeters of the car body’s protective cover. The nano-particles form a tough net-structure together with the car paint and binders. Thanks to this net, the paint will retain 72 percent of its original luster even after 100 trips through the car wash. In contrast, a conventional type of paint would only retain 35 percent of its brilliance under the same conditions. The question is often raised in public whether a risk exists for public health or the environment from paints that contain nanoparticles. In addition to the many studies that are conducted by government agencies or the extractive industry on this issue, the paint association also made a contribution with a special study of their own. The Technical University of Dresden examined whether nanoparticles could be released into the atmosphere from a layer of paint in everyday use. The studies were very complex, as it proved to be difficult to safely locate and verify the nanoparticles.

Nevertheless, the researchers managed to develop a procedure. In applying this new procedure to the nanopaints, it was determined that almost no nanoparticles would be released in the everyday use of a coat of paint. In the next phase, the researchers investigated what happens when a paint film is subjected to harsher conditions, i.e. when working with abrasive devices. Results show that differences do not exist when comparing conventional paints and nanopaints with regard to the release of nanoparticles. However, there are other ways to improve the scratch resistance of clear paints. Nanotechnology plays a role here as well: Research and development are currently working intensively on nanostructured binders. Their excellent properties can be used for clear and base coats. The former Research Institute for Pigments and Paints - today Research Institute for Pigments and Paints in the Stuttgart Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology and Automation - has been intensively engaged with the scientific fundamentals of scratch resistance.

These include studies of the molecular aspects of scratch resistance, and also studies to make the scratch process more understandable. The Nano Scratch Tester can generate and measures a single scratch. The comparison of scratch test results with physicochemical properties of the coatings are impetus for improved paints and coatings, and provides raw material manufacturers the ability to develop their products in a targeted manner. Paint research and development remains exciting and will progress in the future. Here, the focus lies on new features for painting and making painting application processes run even faster and more cost efficient.«

Prior to his presidency, Peter Becker was a board member of the VdL and was responsible for the reorganization of the association. The Karlsruhe entrepreneur has committed himself to systematically opening new international markets for the industry.