During the plenary session of the American Coatings Conference, the National Paint and Coatings Association (NPCA) and the Vincentz Network presented Dr. James W. Rawlins with the first-ever American Coatings Award for his collaborative paper entitled, "Letting Mother Nature Tackle the Dirty Work: The Future of Coatings Additives." The award-winning paper was contributed by Rawlins, assistant professor of Polymer Science and Engineering at the School of Polymers and High Performance Materials at the University of Southern Mississippi, and his co-authors Michael D. Blanton and Pirro B. Cipi of the University of Southern Mississippi, as well as C. Steven McDaniel, Melinda E. Wales, and Juan Carlo Carvajal of Reactive Surfaces Ltd. It was selected as the most outstanding from 72 finalists of over 170 submissions. The prestigious award is endowed with $2,500 and an attractive sculpture.
The award-winning paper explored how biological molecules such as enzymes and peptides have traditionally been viewed as functionally restricted to very narrow environmental conditions, but how increased levels of understanding have led to the development of innovative, bio-engineered "smart" additives for paints and coatings. In the presentation of the paper, Rawlins focused on three areas: (1) the bio-engineered additive performance in environmentally-benign, self-decontaminating coating systems, specifically capable of catalytically decontaminating chemical and biological agents on surfaces; (2) the performance of an engineered peptide developed for environmentally friendly control over microbial growth; and (3) the results from a fundamental investigation of the variables influencing enzyme activity, kinetics, and functionality in functional films.