There was a point of time when smart coatings were considered as novelties with minimal likelihood of commercialization. One decade later, there are numerous smart coatings that have found use on a daily basis into different sectors like construction, automotive and consumer electronics. With the advances in technology, there are still a number of smart coatings which might not be the best for practical use but there are many being introduced into the consumer markets and they have the potential to make an impact.
The global coatings market was worth $885.5 in 2015 and it is estimated to reach $8.1 billion by the end of 2021. Smart coatings are layers made up of different coating materials that have specific characteristics and display certain properties on reacting to external stimuli like pressure, light and electric current. It includes a large number of products that are used across different industries. There has been a phenomenal change and innovation in the functional and smart coatings industry in the last decade. It is only expected that this development will continue to accelerate in the coming years. New technologies raise provocative questions which drive the development of the industry further.
Developments in smart coatings
Smart coatings have the ability to address the needs of different sectors. They can help improve the life of many people. The coatings are functional, transparent, easy to clean and have various benefits when put to use. They can be used for touch screen displays as well as for airplane windshields. The type and form of coating will be different in each case. They also help meet the needs of the society for energy savings.
The biggest trend driving the development of smart coating technology is the demand for higher performance in order to increase the lifetime of the product and to reduce the cost of maintenance. There is also a demand for energy efficient products for environmental reasons. Functional coatings and smart coatings are high in demand across industries and they meet different needs of the consumers. They are distinct in behavior and respond differently to the environment. Smart coatings will be able to create protectable intellectual property in the future. It will help avoid commoditization of the coating products and will lead to a whole new stream of products over a sustained period of time. Smart coatings will remain a sustainable business opportunity going forward.
Applications for smart coatings
There is a rising interest in smart coatings in the automotive and aerospace industry. In both the cases, there is an increased ease of maintenance with self cleaning coatings. Smart coatings also give a higher level of protection from various external environmental factors which have an impact on the performance. There is a rising trend towards multi passenger vehicles and it is also driving the development of coatings with antimicrobial properties for the interiors of the vehicle.
The thing about smart coatings is that they remain passive unless prompted to perform a function based on the stimuli. They have the ability to prevent corrosion and are environmentally friendly. They are used in industries like military, medical, transport, textile, electronics, construction and many others which need protection against the corrosion and other surface protection purposes. A lot of organizations are involved in the research of smart coatings field and they have developed a number of technologies that have garnered attention from the industry.
The major challenge for the adoption of additional smart coating technology is the economics involved in the development and mass adoption across the markets. The coatings could turn out to be cost prohibitive for a range of applications and this may lead to a slow adoption in the market. Another hurdle is to convert the coatings into practical coating system from the ones demons trated in the laboratory. They provide a range of other performance attributes in addition to the smart behavior and this makes them ideal for usage across industries. New technologies need to provide effective performance under the real world conditions where the stimuli cannot be controlled and could vary significantly. The effective performance of the coatings must be maintained over its life. Durability is another hurdle in the development of smart coatings. Easy to clean and other functional coatings are subject to extreme challenges for numerous years and these hurdles in the industry are greater than in other industries due to the long life span and difficult environmental conditions.
The market is growing beyond the expectations of the experts and has a positive outlook for the coming years. Organizations across the globe need to invest heavily into the research and development of the industry in order to create coatings that are durable, easy to clean and fit the industry specific requirements.