Looking forward: Innovative coatings and materials must address energy

20:44 PM | September 15, 2014 | —Charles Bunch, Chairman and CEO of PPG Industries

‘The biggest challenges [customers] face will be related to energy.’ —Charles Bunch, PPG

The future of the coatings industry will require innovative solutions to address our customers’ greatest needs and challenges. While customers will continue to seek products that ensure safety and security, provide protection, and enhance functionality and aesthetics, the biggest challenges they face will be related to energy. Nowhere is that more apparent than in areas where increased amounts of energy are consumed—buildings, transportation, and industry itself.

In buildings, which today account for 20% of the world’s energy consumption, efforts to enhance energy efficiency are driving improvements in areas such as insulation and lighting. Coatings and innovative materials will play an increasingly important role in these efforts. For example, infrared (IR)-reflective technologies are being used in cool-roof coatings that can improve a building’s cooling efficiency. Low-emissivity (low-e) glazings can be used to upgrade the thermal insulation of windows. And low-e coatings for glass can provide some of the highest R-values—a measure of thermal resistance—possible while allowing light to pass through.

Many say that organic LED (OLED) technology is the “next big thing” in lighting. According to estimates from the US Department of Energy, widespread installation of solid-state lighting by 2030 could slash electricity use in the United States by one third. That’s why companies, including PPG, are investing in new technologies in this area. The market for OLED products, including solid-state lighting applications in buildings, continues to grow.

Transportation consumes about a quarter of the world’s energy. Across sea, air, and land, coatings and lightweight materials will be important in addressing the most important energy challenges faced by transportation segments. For example, antifouling coatings can improve a ship’s fuel efficiency by preventing biofouling while increasing speed through the water. Jet fuel comprises 30% of an airline’s costs, and higher costs can significantly impact profitability. New plastic transparencies, low-density sealants, and specialty coatings will enable the next generation of lightweight, fuel-efficient jets.

Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for cars are targeting 54 miles/gal by 2025, requiring manufacturers to reduce the weight of the average vehicle by hundreds of pounds. In order to achieve these weight reductions, automakers are dramatically changing the way vehicles are built, with some introducing models that use reinforced plastic composites and aluminum. The right coatings technologies can contribute to fuel efficiency and help automotive manufacturers introduce new materials—without sacrificing aesthetics and durability.

Vehicle for Efficiency: Coatings and lighter weight materials are critical to solving energy and transportation challenges.

Industrial uses of energy—manufacturing of finished goods and raw materials—consume more than half of the world’s energy production. For example, 70% of the energy used in an automotive assembly plant is consumed in the paint shop. New, innovative coatings technologies are helping automotive manufacturers to make improvements in this area. For example, many manufacturers are adopting compact paint processes that apply two layers of basecoat and skip the traditional primer oven and spray booth. Automakers are realizing up to 30% energy savings with this innovation. Thermoset technologies that reduce or eliminate the need for ovens will continue to lower the energy costs for our customers as well.

Beyond the production environment, coatings will also help companies better protect their assets, enabling longer product life cycles. Longer life cycles, in turn, reduce the energy necessary to repair or manufacture a replacement. This is critically important in areas such as the petrochemical industry, the marine industry, commercial infrastructure, water infrastructure, pipes, bridges, and the power industry.

The future of the coatings industry is bright if we focus our innovation efforts on the most important needs of the markets we serve. There are few areas that offer more opportunity for the coatings industry than energy. A focus on innovative coatings and materials that address our customers’ greatest needs related to energy will enable us to contribute to a more prosperous and sustainable future.