Plastics eco-sustainable coating technology wins major award

The development of a new, ‘eco-sustainable’ coating technology for plastics has won CSIRO and its project partner, Dulux Powder Coatings, one of Australia’s leading environmental awards – the Banksia Eco-Innovation Award.

Presented at the Banksia Awards 2008 presentation dinner in Melbourne, the award recognises the new ‘dry’ coating’s ability to save energy and almost eliminate harmful emissions and solid wastes produced as a result of the automotive industry’s historical reliance on ‘wet’ spray-painting technologies.

The Australian automotive industry currently uses 9.86M litres of paints per year. All solvents used in the process become airborne while 2.5M litres of solids go to landfill. The new coating technology is estimated to have the potential to save the Australian automotive industry A$100M a year.

“The problem the team had to solve was that most powder coating particles only stick to surfaces that conduct electricity and the plastics used to make automotive components are not conductive,” Dr Gutowski says.

Project leader, CSIRO’s Dr Voytek Gutowski, says the aim of the research was to overcome a long-term sustainability issue for the automotive, plastics and furniture industries by replacing wet paint finishes on heat-sensitive substances, such as plastic components, with zero-waste powder coating technology.

“We overcame this by coating the plastic components with a nanometre-thin layer of specialty multifunctional molecules, while, for its part, Dulux Powder Coatings developed new-generation powder coatings that can be cured at much lower temperatures and for much shorter times than traditional powders,” he says.

Due to its unmatched environmental benefits and performance the new coating technology was successfully commercialised in 2006-08. Since then, substantial financial and employment benefits have been realised.

The technology – the development of which was co-funded by Sustainability Victoria – also recently won Victoria’s 2008 Premier's Sustainability Award.