Wedged between Super Bowl XXXVI and Mardi Gras, the 29th annual International Waterborne, High-Solids and Powder Coatings Symposium was held in New Orleans, LA, Feb 5-8.
This technical conference, organized by the University of Southern Mississippi School of Polymers & High Performance Materials, Hattiesburg, MS, has become one of the premier technical events in the industry, attracting academia, suppliers and coatings formulators alike to the Crescent City for two and one-half days of presentations. However, like most coatings industry events scheduled since last fall, this conference experienced a drop in attendance. Registration was below the 300 mark, compared to the more than 400 who attended last year.
The conference provided more than 30 presentations focused on developments and experimentation in a number of raw material areas. Presentations, including the opening lecture, also addressed combinatorial chemistry and high throughput screening and how the pharmaceutical industry might serve as a role model for the paint industry.
Increasing Your Odds
In his plenary lecture, Douglas Wicks-a former Bayer coatings scientist who recently joined the University of Southern Mississippi as a professor-issued a challenge to the industry. According to Dr. Wicks, the coatings industry should take a cue from the pharmaceutical industry and incorporate combinatorial methodology into coatings R&D. By doing so, companies can increase their odds for success in an industry that is under greater pressure to develop more effective products in less time with fewer resources.
"We're facing increasing regulations, specs are getting tighter and we have less resources to do all this," he said.
According to Dr. Wicks, the core methodology of coatings research-which focuses on manual labor and large samples-hasn't changed much in the past 40-50 years. "Formulating coatings is often viewed as an art with very little science thrown in," Dr. Wicks said.
According to Dr. Wicks, 20 years ago, organic chemists in the pharmaceuticals lab synthesized a limited number of compounds each week, which were then tested by chemists using time-consuming experiments. The lack of faster, less labor intensive screening techniques was a major bottleneck in drug discovery. With the advent of cell or receptor based in-vitro assays, the synthesis of suitable drug candidates became the major bottleneck to the industry, which led to the development of parallel and combinatorial synthesis models.
Dr. Wicks asked, "How do we bring that into coatings science, or do we need to?"
In his paper, Dr. Wicks said if a typical paint chemist makes less than 100 experiments to optimize a formulation, he or she does not "scratch the surface on the optimization front."
Dr. Wicks outlined the technical challenges the coatings industry has to meet in regard to this type of testing, including design, fabrication, measurement and analysis. In addition, cost is another major factor, including money needed for equipment, databases/IT infrastructure and training. However, Dr. Wicks believes the industry can benefit from high throughput screening and how it weeds out candidates that will cause a formulation to fail or not show improvement-and increase the probabilities for success. "Never expect success, but thrive on eliminating guaranteed failures," he said.
With such advancements, will high throughput screening mean the end for bench chemists?
"It won't eliminate formulators. It will increase productivity and will identify clear failures," Dr. Wicks said. "Ready or not, it's coming," he said about this method of experimentation.
A "Combinatorial Factory"
A project between GE Corporate Research and Development and the Avery-Dennison Research Center, funded by the National Institute of Standards Advanced Technology (NIST) Program, is focused on developing combinatorial methods for coatings development. Brett Chisholm provided details on this project–which focuses on organic clear coatings–in his paper, "Combinatorial chemistry methods for coating development III."
According to his presentation, a "combinatorial factory" created at GE's Niskayuna, NY facility has significantly increased the rate of organic clear coat development. The facility has a throughput of 150 coatings per day and possesses all of the aspects of a conventional combinatorial process including automated sample preparation, miniaturized samples in an array format, high throughout screening and software that manages data management, storage and analysis. All of this is accomplished in a typical eight hour work day by a pair of researchers, according to the authors.
Mr. Chisholm said benefits of combinatorial chemistry include more than increased speed of discovery, such as the opportunity for broad patent coverage and reduction of costs associated with raw materials and personnel.
Additional Topics and Awards
High throughput screening was not the only matter of concern at this conference. There were many others papers presented during the symposium, each covering different topics of coatings R&D and evaluation. Papers included: "Organic pigments and pigment preparations for decorative and waterborne coatings to meet environmental and technical challenges," from Clariant GmbH; "Higher solids solventborne acrylic resins (low VOC)," from Solutia, several papers from Bayer and presentations from academics USM and other universities.
In addition, the Elias Singer Best Paper Award was presented to "Phthalimide photoinitiation of acrylate polymerization," by T.B. Cavitt, B. Phillips, C. Daniels, C.E. Hoyle and C.K. Nguyen of the University of Southern Mississippi, and V. Kalyanaraman of Becker-Acroma, Inc. and S. Jönsson of Fusion UV-Curing Systems.
In addition to the Best Paper award captured byJohnson Polymer, here are the other awards presented during the 29th annual Waterborne Symposium.
Outstanding Paper in Waterborne Coatings
"Self-crosslinking polymeric dispersants and their use in emulsion polymerization"
Authors: A.J.P. Buckman, et al. of NeoResins, Waalwijk, The Netherlands.
Outstanding Paper in Coatings Technologies
"Cerium-based conversion coatings for aluminum alloys"
Authors: J. Stoffer, T. O'Keefe, M. O'Keefe, W. Fahrenholtz, T. Schuman, P.Yu, E. Morris, S. Hayes, A. Williams. A. Shahin and B. Rivera of the University of Missouri-Rolla.
Elias Singer Outstanding USM Student Paper
"Phthalimide photoinitiation of acrylate polymerization"
Authors: T. Brian Cavitt, Brian Phillips, Christopher Daniels, Charles E. Hoyle, and C. K. Nguyen of the University of Southern Mississippi; V. Kalyanaraman of Becker-Acroma Inc., Canada; and Sonny Jönsson of Fusion UV-Curing Systems, Gaithersburg, MD.
For additional information or for details on the 30th annual symposium, scheduled for Feb. 26-28, 2003 in New Orleans, call (601) 266-4475 or 5193; Fax: (601) 266-6265; Web: www.psrc.usm.edu/waterborne.