High Waterborne Polyurethane performance in low VOC paint

Grantham Scholar Max Allen’s project is focused on advancing high performance coatings used in the automotive, aerospace, decorative and high-tech industry. 

The project

Paints (or surface coatings) predominantly have two roles which are to protect and to decorate the substrate they’re being applied to. Most of the solvents used are organics which are typically classed as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Previously, the coatings industry heavily relied on these organic compounds as their solvents of choice. However, studies have found that VOCs pose risks to human health and the environment – playing a key role in the formation of ground-level ozone (smog). Due to these findings, there is currently an increase in the availability and variety of aqueous coatings which are offered as low-VOC alternatives.

The main goal of this PhD project is to find what morphology/colloidal features are required for optimal film formation and what morphological features are required in a (drying) film for the best coating performance. By understanding the morphology/colloidal properties of the water-borne dispersions and of the films they form, we can help to enhance their functionality, providing high quality and low-VOC high performance coatings for industry. The project involves a large amount of Small-Angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) while involving various other techniques such as optical and fluorescence microscopy, rheology, and Wide-Angle X-ray scattering (WAXS) to help close existing technical gaps by delving deeper into the structure-property relationship between polyurethane paint dispersions and their films produced.