Expert's Opinion

New Functional Coatings Provide Under-Appreciated Business Opportunities

August 28, 2013

Hydrophobic, self-healing and air-cleaning coatings will have a big impact, according to new report

Advances in materials science and nanotechnology have created several new functionalities in coatings, going beyond their original basic protective and decorative attributes. However, mismatched perceptions among coating developers and potential customers still remain, slowing rapid market adoption, according to Lux Research.

Functional coatings -- offering benefits such as antimicrobial in medicine, self-healing in infrastructure, hydrophobic in electronics, and photocatalytic in construction -- deliver value over and above the basic decorative and protective functions.
"Functional coatings can significantly enhance the value proposition of the end product but qualification time, cost and durability requirements often temper these benefits," said Aditya Ranade, Lux Research senior analyst and the lead author of the report titled, "Beyond Protection: Scouting for Hot Spots in the Emerging Functional Coatings Market."

Lux Research analysts examined four coating functionalities -- hydrophobic, antimicrobial, photocatalytic, and self-healing -- for their applicability and disruptive potential, and assessed 53 innovative small- to medium-sized developers. Among their findings:

• Self-healing is the most disruptive, but under-appreciated. Elastic clearcoats can repair scratches to automotive components, and mechano-responsive polymers offer game-changing functionality with their ability to anticipate cracks before they appear. However, most industries rate self-healing coatings as only moderately disruptive, pointing to missed opportunities.

• Nanogate, Diamon-Fusion show commercial mettle in hydrophobic coatings. Besides solid technical value, both Nanogate Technologies and Diamon-Fusion International boast solid partnerships and positive momentum. The two firms topped Lux Research's rating of hydrophobic coating developers, and are strong targets for aerospace, sporting goods, and automotive industry players, which see hydrophobic coatings as impactful.

• Strong market pull exists for antimicrobial coatings. Hospitals, food processing facilities, animal housing and children's centers have a clear motivation to reduce spread of diseases. Hence, antimicrobial coatings are seen as highly disruptive in the medical industry.

According to Ranade, they are prediciitng antimicrobial coatings will gain use in medical devices. Self-cleaning coatings will be used for infrastructure, such as self cleaning for gas and pipe lines.

He noted that the major player for self-cleaning coatings is PPG, but there a number of  smaller startups competing in this area as well.

“On the antimicrobial side Alistagen and Reactive Surfaces are two key players,” he said. “Of course there are larger players such as Dow and DuPont with their own offering for antimicrobial coatings.”

As people become more aware of the benefits of these types of coatings, there use will continue to increase. “There is a cost benefit analysis especially in infrastructure. Consumer electronics will be more driven by functionality.  The role of specifiers and how they influence the decision making process is something to consider. In building and infrastructure it tends to be architects, in consumer electronics it is the OEM manufacturers themselves making the decisions.“

The report, titled "Beyond Protection: Scouting for Hot Spots in the Emerging Functional Coatings Market," is part of the Lux Research Sustainable Building Materials Intelligence and the Advanced Materials Intelligence services.

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