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AkzoNobel's many innovations

Released at: 15:00, 02/05/2018 What's on

AkzoNobel's many innovations

Photo: AkzoNobel

AkzoNobel is constantly developing better and more sustainable products.

by Ngoc Lan

To mitigate the frenetic pace of urbanization that the world is seeing, it’s essential to support improvements in sustainability by using renewable energies whilst decreasing carbon footprints and reducing waste pollution. At AkzoNobel, we believe that we can play a key role in addressing these challenges through innovative solutions.

AkzoNobel is constantly developing better and more sustainable products, delivering essential ingredients, essential protection and essential color to help create more “Human Cities” around the world for a more livable and inspiring life.

AkzoNobel’s commitment to sustainability is evidenced by our consistent high ranking over the last 10 years on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (ranked first consecutively for four years) and our Planet Possible program which is dedicated to constantly finding ways to deliver more with less.

AkzoNobel is a leading paints and coatings company with worldwide-recognized brands such as Dulux and Sikkens. Our Global Research, Development and Innovation (RD&I) Centre for Exterior Wall Paints is located in Singapore, a vibrant innovation hub in Asia. Our research programs are mainly focusing on sustainability, energy efficient solutions, durability and protection, and, of course, bringing aesthetic delight to exterior facades.

Pollution control and self-cleaning

To support urban communities to combat pollution, AkzoNobel embarked on a program to deliver next generation depolluting paint based on the photocatalysis of titanium dioxide. By absorbing sunlight, specifically ultraviolet radiation, photoactive titanium dioxide particles can be activated in the presence of oxygen and moisture to produce free radicals. These highly active radicals are capable of degrading pollutants like nitrogen oxide and sulphur oxide, thereby contributing to the abatement of noxious emissions from motor vehicles and other human activities. However, the radicals can also decompose organic constituents in the paint and consequently impair the paint durability with excessive chalking. This challenging obstacle was overcome by a specially formulated inorganic film that has a higher resistance to radical attacks.

Aside from cleaning up the air, our photocatalysis paint can also deliver outstanding self-cleaning properties with low dirt pick-up to building facades. This eco-positive benefit derives from both the degradation of the dirt particles by the radicals and the photo-induced super-hydrophilicity effect, where the latter is manifested by a water-loving surface that allows rain to spread on its surface and eventually wash it away.

Water-repellent coating

Alternatively, a face that stays clean can also be delivered via super-hydrophobicity. To this end, AkzoNobel is developing an extremely water-repellent coating with inherently low surface energy enhanced by multi-scale surface topography. In essence, water beads form and roll off easily or simply do not stick at all, on the coating. Owning to the extreme resistance to rain, mud, stains and dirt, the coated surface will stay dry and clean. This new technology will help urban communities reduce their environmental footprint through significant reduction in the energy and chemical detergents used in building maintenance. This is particularly important for fast-growing cities in emerging markets that are populated with high-rise residential and commercial buildings.

For many cities around the world, for example San Francisco and Paris, it’s still a challenge to keep public places clean and the walls away from abuses such as public urination and spitting. In its fervent pursuit to embrace the issue as a national agenda, the Government of India has embarked on a strong nationwide campaign called “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” to promote public cleanliness in all of its cities and towns. AkzoNobel’s super-hydrophobic coating is an innovative solution to address such needs. It can protect walls by resisting the adhesion of urine, spit and other stains, thereby deterring public urination and spitting. In line with our Human Cities initiative, our innovation has the vast potential to help transform and maintain the cleanliness of urban areas, providing the communities with more livable neighborhoods and inspiring surroundings.

Keeping pace with new construction trends

Compared to other industries, the building and infrastructure sectors have seen a much slower increase in productivity and have been slower to adopt new technologies. However, major transformations are now happening. Prefabrication and modularization are now playing an increasingly important role in shaping the evolution of the construction industry, as driven by cost, schedule, safety and environmental benefits. Project schedules can be made more productive with shorter site-built construction times and less weather delays leading to significant labor cost reduction. Work site safety has also improved when it comes to working in high places and there are fewer weather-related complications. Construction-site waste has also been reduced, leading to a lower environmental impact.

One good example is the rising trend in the use of thermal insulation decorative boards in China where such boards are aesthetically pleasing but also provide insulation. Unlike a traditional external thermal insulation composite system (ETICS/EIFS) where every layer is painstakingly applied and put together on site, the coating layers are systematically applied and combined with the insulation layer in a factory environment. This enables a much higher construction efficiency and better quality control than conventional reliability and quality of workmanship.

The controlled application allows for processes that would have been inhibitive to use in traditional exterior wall paint. For instance, with UV or high-temperature curing, new technologies can be considered such as UV-cure binders, fluorocarbon polymers and sol-gel processes. Advanced manufacturing processes, with new technologies such as 3D printing, will allow for more sophisticated functionalities such as solar energy harvesting through photovoltaic or thermoelectric features.

Last, but not least, as the current market is mainly driven by solvent-based solutions, AkzoNobel’s objective and motivation is to develop, deliver and promote water-based solutions to contribute to the reduction of VOC emissions while maintaining an equivalent performance.

AkzoNobel’s research community and our partners are working hard to extend exterior wall paint functionality and durability to up to 30 years, thus reducing building maintenance costs and environmental impact.

Save energy by keeping buildings cooler

For cities experiencing seasons with high temperatures, cooling buildings is a significant source of energy consumption. The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change anticipates that by 2100 the need for electricity to power cooling will have increased to more than 30x than that of the year 2000. To decrease this need for cooling, the choice of paint on the building has an important role as it can absorb more, or less of the solar energy, subsequently transmitting this as heat energy to the building. Traditionally the only way to influence this was to recommend white or light shades that reflect light, notably visible light that contributes to 50 per cent of the total solar energy. AkzoNobel has successfully developed a first generation of paints that offers vivid colors together with the ability to keep the surface cooler. This technology, KeepCool, is based on special pigments that have been selected based on their ability to reflect better in the near infrared region of the solar spectrum, which contributes to 40 per cent of the solar energy. The result is that the surface can be 5 degrees Celsius lower than without this technology, leading to potentially reducing energy use by 10 to 15 per cent for the building.

AkzoNobel is already progressing to the second generation of thermal energy management, incorporating objects of the same size order as the wavelengths of light intended to scatter, but with a refractive index very different from its surrounding medium. This allows light diffraction and scatters a part of the incoming energy.

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