Eco Innovator November 2011


Waste-Free Paint For Cars

A scientist who developed a way to spray paint cars that totally eliminates waste and volatile organic compounds won the 2011 Eureka Prize for Commercialisation of Innovation.

Dr Wojciech Gutowski, chief research scientist at the CSIRO, won the award for his research in the field of sealants, adhesives and coatings. The estimated savings of his technology to the Australian car industry is estimated at about $100 million per year.

Applying solvent-based spray paint to vehicles is the second-biggest environmental hazard of cars after exhaust fumes. Only about 35 per cent of wet spray paint sticks to the surface. A quarter of the paint solids end up in landfill, while the solvents are released into the atmosphere as volatile organic compounds.

Dr Gutowski developed an eco-technology that eliminates the need to use harmful and costly wet paint, and improves the ‘stickability' of electrostatic powder coating. The technology uses solvent-free resin that allows powder coatings, paints and inks to better adhere to plastics. The result is 100 per cent or waste free transfer efficiency of a coating with no solvent and thus with no harm to health or the environment.

"Professor Gutowski has developed the first true zero-waste coating technologies that completely eliminate solid and liquid waste, volatile organic chemicals and the use of water in a range of industries that need to powder-coat products," said Frank Howarth, director of the Australian Museum. "This goes well beyond car production and has the potential to transform manufacturing industries that make painted plastic components for cars, aircraft, furniture and buildings."

The technology is already in use in the automotive industry in Australia and overseas where it can be applied for coating both exterior and interior components of a vehicle. It is also used by major international companies such as General Motors, Ford and Boeing.

The technology is based on engineering an interface on the surface of non-conductive material to dramatically increase its surface conductivity and enhance coating adhesion. This gives plastics the same transfer efficiencies as metal when using electrostatic powder-coating. Surface modification technologies developed by Professor Gutowski can be used with polymers, composites, ceramics and organic materials such as wood and natural fibres.

The $10,000 Rio Tinto Eureka Prize for Commercialisation of Innovation is awarded to an individual, group or organisation for the commercialization of an innovation within the past 10 years that has created significant value in Australia during that time.






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