Selecting the Right Grade Makes a Difference

Table 1: Physical Properties
Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is a key component of many coatings formulations due to its unique optical properties. Incorporated correctly, TiO2 can promote superior hiding, gloss and durability performance in paint films. However, efficiency of TiO2 performance in a coating is both a function of the inherent TiO2 physical properties and of proper grade selection and dispersion in the formula.

Titanium dioxide is obtained from ilmenite ores using either a sulfate or chloride production process. The sulfate process yields both anatase and rutile crystal forms of TiO2, while the chloride process yields only the rutile crystal structure. Rutile TiO2 is preferred for use in most coatings due to its higher refractive index (R.I.) and hence improved ability to scatter light in paint films. Figure 1 illustrates that light traveling through a film with a higher refractive index pigment will have a shorter overall path length (top illustration) when compared to a film with a lower refractive index pigment (bottom illustration). As long as the film thickness is greater than that indicated by the dotted line in the illustration, both films will appear white and opaque. However, if film thickness is reduced to the dotted line, light traveling through the film with the lower R.I. pigment will be partially absorbed by the substrate causing reduced hiding when compared to the film with the high R.I. pigment, which will remain white and opaque. Thus, choosing a high R.I. pigment such as rutile TiO2 (R.I. =2.73) to maximize the refractive index difference between the pigment and its medium allows for the greatest opacity development in the film. Additionally, TiO2 is unique among pigments in paint formulation because it provides both wet and dry hiding of the substrate by the paint film.

TiO2 particle size and distribution are controlled in the production process and influenced by pigment dispersion in the paint-making process. These properties affect final paint properties such as gloss, dispersion and hiding. Optimal light scattering occurs for well-dispersed TiO2 pigments at a particle size between 0.2-0.3 microns due to the combination of refraction and diffraction of visible wavelengths of light by pigments of this size. As shown in Figure 2, optimal optical properties for a paint film such as hiding power and tinting strength are achieved primarily by optimizing pigment particle size and distribution at less than 0.5 microns. Figure 2 also indicates that as particle size increases, film properties such as gloss and paint properties such as dispersion become negatively affected.

In addition to particle size and distribution, surface treatment is also controlled by the TiO2 production process. Pigment particles are surface treated with alumina, silica and organic coatings to promote dispersibility, hiding, and durability in paints (see Table 1). Grades such as DuPont(tm) Ti-Pure(r) R-902, R-706, and R-960 with moderate silica content are designed to promote photostability in coatings. Therefore, paints made with these grades generally display improved chalk resistance and gloss retention in outdoor applications. Surface coatings are also applied to pigments to act as physical spacers for the pigment particles in paint films leading to superior hide in paints formulated above critical pigment volume concentration (CPVC), as is the case with Ti-Pure R-931.

Table 2: Checklist for Titanium Dioxide Selection

Titanium Dioxide Grade Selection for Paint Applications

All major TiO2 producers offer a range of titanium dioxide pigments with excellent color and opacity performance. It is important to select the proper grade to achieve additional performance and appearance properties desired in coatings systems. Many key factors must be considered when selecting a grade for coatings applications (see Table 2).

While there is still a range of TiO2 products available, the list can be narrowed down quickly through the use of the checklist found in Table 2 in combination with the grade selection literature provided by titanium dioxide suppliers. When in doubt, consult your suppliers' website or the supplier's sales and technical service organizations.

Table 3: Guide to Paint Uses

Architectural/Decorative Coatings

For architectural or decorative coatings, there are two primary types of TiO2 pigments: those for enamel grade performance below CPVC and those with improved spacing characteristics for above CPVC paint applications. Ti-Pure R-706 and R-931 are available to cover this range of paints. R-931 offers effective hiding and cost efficiency for high-quality flat paints above CPVC if the customer is willing to stock multiple TiO2 products. A range of TiO2 dry and slurry grade choices exist for architectural coatings applications depending upon the need for exterior durability. Recommendations for various applications are listed in Table 3.

  • Interior Gloss and Semigloss Paints. TiO2 pigments with low levels of surface treatment (i.e., high TiO2 content) are recommended for these relatively low pigment volume concentration (PVC) paints, below CPVC. R-700 is the ideal selection for alkyd and latex paint applications requiring maximum gloss performance. R-700, with its smaller mean particle size and bluer undertone, will also provide brighter, cleaner colors in tinted systems. R-900 is recommended for general use in alkyd and latex paints for interior gloss and semigloss applications. This pigment disperses easily, develops high gloss and shows maximum hiding power over a range of gloss grade applications (see Table 3).

    Ti-Pure R-706 and R-902 are recommended for use when a single pigment is required to perform well in both interior and exterior gloss and semigloss systems. R-706 is the ideal selection for applications requiring high gloss, maximum gloss retention, and chalk resistance. In addition, the small mean particle size and blue undertone of R-706 will provide brighter, cleaner colors in tinted systems. R-902 is slightly lower in hiding power, gloss, and dispersion than R-900, but higher in exterior durability. For paint manufacturers capable of handling TiO2 in aqueous slurry form, R-706 and R-902 are available in slurry forms-as R-746 and R-942, respectively, (see Table 1).

  • Interior Flat Paints. These coatings are formulated with relatively high levels of extenders and TiO2 pigments, and are frequently above the CPVC for interior applications. Ti-Pure R-931 (or its slurry form, R-941) is recommended for these applications. Because it is a highly surface-treated TiO2 grade, R-931 will provide superior performance in this class of highly crowded paint systems (see Table 1, "Physical Properties").

  • Exterior Architectural Paints. In addition to normal criteria, selection of the proper TiO2 grade for these coatings will depend upon the desired balance between gloss and tint retention, self-cleaning ability, and prevailing atmospheric conditions. For high gloss and maximum exterior durability in architectural coatings systems, R-706 is recommended. R-706, with its smaller mean particle size and bluer undertone, will also provide brighter, cleaner colors in tinted systems.

    Ti-Pure R-902 is also highly chalk-resistant; it performs well over a range of solventborne and aqueous systems where tint retention is important. R-900 has medium chalk resistance and is preferred when dirt collection is a problem. These pigments can be used in both alkyd and emulsion paints (see Table 1).

    Tinted house paints, including both white and tinted trim paints, require a high degree of chalk resistance and gloss retention. Ti-Pure R-706 is recommended for emulsion trim paints because it provides maximum initial gloss and outstanding exterior durability. These last two properties result from lower PVC and generally better binder durability associated with exterior emulsion trim paints. R-902 also satisfies these requirements over a range of solventborne and aqueous systems.

    Ti-Pure R-931/R-941 performs well in selected exterior white latex house paints, following reformulation to accommodate the higher surface area of the pigment and to maintain film integrity. When exterior durability is desired in a flat paint, R-902 is also highly recommended.

    Figure 1: Path of Light in White Paint Films (High/Low R.I. Pigment)

    OEM and Special-Purpose Coatings

    Industrial finishes include a variety of market subsegments such as automotive finishes, powder coatings, coil and can coatings, and maintenance paints. Each has substantially different quality and performance requirements. TiO2 is used primarily to provide hiding or opacity, but grade selection can also have a significant effect on coating gloss, exterior durability, and film cure for acid-catalyzed coatings. The TiO2 grade most appropriate for a particular application depends on the end-use coating properties it affects (see Table 3).

    In most high-performance coatings requiring exterior durability with excellent color and gloss retention, there are few TiO2s that hit this mark. Most suppliers offer one or two pigment types in this area, such as R-960 for the most demanding exterior durability (gloss and color retention) applications, and R-706, which meets many stringent requirements and can often provide improved initial gloss in combination with the desired gloss and color retention.

    For general industrial applications, R-902 multipurpose pigment has been an industry standard for over 35 years. In addition, R-900, R-960, and the modern grades R-700 and R-706 are suitable for many OEM and special-purpose paint applications as well. R-706 and R-960 remain a preferred combination for powder coatings applications. Today, the universal type pigments such as R-706 are being used in a range of general industrial OEM and special-purpose applications where both performance and aesthetics are desired. The universal pigments offer high tint strength, crisp bluer undertones, lower dispersant demand, easy dispersion, high initial gloss, and excellent gloss and color retention. A more detailed discussion of TiO2 grade application by subsegment follows.

  • Automotive OEM and Refinish Coatings: Automotive coatings are among the most demanding applications for TiO2 pigments. Proper selection of pigment grades is crucial to optimize manufacturing and application processes, mechanical and chemical integrity, and aesthetics, which are required for today's automotive coating systems. Several Ti-Pure grades are available for automotive coating applications, offering both OEM and refinish formulators a selection of the desired combination of properties.

  • Electrodeposition Primers: Ti-Pure R-900 is ideally suited for electrodeposition primer applications. It provides easy dispersion, excellent hiding, high resistivity, and low soluble ion content that provide excellent application properties and high corrosion resistance.

    Topcoats: Ti-Pure R-706 combines high gloss and distinctness of image with excellent resistance to weathering for high-quality OEM and refinish topcoats. However, R-960 is the most durable Ti-Pure pigment available, making it also ideal for OEM and refinish applications. R-902 is less resistant to weathering than R-960 or R-706 but provides an excellent balance of properties.

  • Processing: Optimization of optical and mechanical properties of an automotive coating depends on properly dispersed pigment. Choosing a pigment that is ideally suited for each coatings system is crucial to maximizing coating performance. The fast wet-in and easy dispersion properties of R-706 can provide increased throughput in manufacturing operations.

  • Powder Coatings: The continuous emergence of powder coatings as a significant and high-growth market segment has led to the development of thousands of specific formulations from only a handful of primary resin/crosslinking systems. Technological advances have been based primarily on developments and improved understandings in resin chemistry. Recently, the influence of TiO2 in powder coating systems has been explored, allowing formulators to select pigments with varying chemical and physical properties. Several grades are available to optimize processing and end-use performance of specific powder formulations.

  • Flow and Optics: Ti-Pure R-706 provides easy dispersion, high-cure flowability (which yields decorative coatings of high gloss and reflectance) and increased opacity. These properties, combined with high durability performance, make R-706 suitable for both interior and exterior use. R-700, though less resistant to weathering, has excellent dispersibility, high cure flow, and outstanding reflectance and opacity.

  • Durability: R-960 is the most durable Ti-Pure pigment available and is suggested for use in systems such as triglycidyl isocyanurate (TGIC) and Primid-cured polyesters where outdoor weatherability is of primary concern. R-706 also provides a high level of gloss retention combined with an excellent balance of processing and optical performance properties.

  • Overbake Yellowing Resistance: Both R-960 and R-902 provide excellent resistance to overbake yellowing during cure.

  • General Industrial. Ti-Pure R-706, R-960, R-902, R-700 and R-900 are the grades most commonly used in industrial coatings. Their surface treatment, particle size and particle-size distribution determine the performance differences in these grades. Silica provides exterior durability (chalk resistance and gloss retention). Alumina provides ease of dispersion and flocculation resistance. Smaller particle size, narrower particle size distribution and smaller particle coarse tail contribute to the superior gloss of Ti-Pure R-706 and R-700. Although high hiding is important in all coatings, grade choice often depends on the gloss level and exterior durability required.

    Ti-Pure R-706 is the most widely applicable grade, possessing a combination of exceptionally high gloss and excellent exterior durability unique in the industry. It can be used in both interior and exterior coatings where this combination of gloss and durability combined with excellent dispersibility is of value. R-960, although lower in gloss than R-706, provides outstanding chalk resistance and tint retention and should be used in premium-quality exterior finishes where resistance to chalking and color change are of primary importance. Applications include coil coatings for residential aluminum siding and architectural building panels, aerospace coatings, and other high-durability applications. Because of their silica surface treatment, both of these grades provide better film cure in acid-catalyzed coatings than nonsilica-treated grades.

    Ti-Pure R-902 is used in high-quality finishes that require very good chalk resistance and gloss retention, but not the exceptional performance provided by R-706 and R-960. This grade is often used in industrial maintenance, implement and transportation finishes, and some container coatings.

    Ti-Pure R-700 and R-900 are both used primarily for interior coating applications. R-700 is recommended for most applications and provides the highest gloss combined with a blue undertone for clean tints. Compared with R-900, R-700 provides better film cure in acid-catalyzed coatings because of its neutral pH and lower level of alumina surface treatment. R-900 is widely used for can coatings where its neutral undertone and high gloss are valued. Applications for both grades include appliance coatings, metal furniture finishes, and high-reflectance white coil coatings.

    Figure 2: TiO2 Particle Size and Distribution Effect on Properties

    Inventory Simplification

    Architectural Coatings. The difference in TiO2 performance between alkyd and emulsion flat paints is usually negligible. Occasionally it is desirable to use one pigment over a range of PVCs in interior and exterior flat and semigloss paints. For these applications, we offer a choice of two gloss grades, R-706 and R-902, or their respective slurry counterparts, R-746 and R-942. R-902 or R-706 can successfully replace R-931 in a range of flat paint formulations following adjustments in the formula to accommodate differences among pigments. R-706 is a universal pigment and its selection will provide improved gloss performance as well as maximum gloss retention and chalk resistance in a wide range of solvent and waterborne systems.

    OEM and Special-Purpose Coatings. While it is possible to use a single universal pigment such as R-706 over a range of industrial applications, typically most coatings producers still use at least two or three pigments. One TiO2 grade typically is a multipurpose grade such as R-902, another would be a universal pigment such as R-706 for high gloss, and third an R-960 type for the most demanding exterior gloss and color retention applications. Because most industrial producers participate in a range of market end-uses, a single TiO2 grade is a more challenging goal as compared to decorative coatings applications.

    Maximizing TiO2 Efficiency in Paints

    While the inherent TiO2 pigment properties and the choice of grade influence paint performance, achieving proper dispersion also plays a key role in maximizing TiO2 benefits in coatings applications. To achieve increased efficiency for TiO2 in a paint formulation, several practical aspects of dispersion must be considered.

    First, consider the initial wet-in of the pigment in an appropriate solvent system. Wetting of the pigment occurs when air or other substances are displaced from the pigment surface by solvents and/or wetting agents such as surfactants or dispersants. The wetting rate is influenced by the surface treatment on the pigment and by wetting agents included in the formulation. Following wet-in, shear must be applied in a grinding step to break up pigment aggregates and agglomerates. The level of shear stress must be determined for each pigment grade to yield a reasonable evaluation of the ease of dispersion for that grade in a defined system. The shear stress applied to the system differs markedly depending on the type of equipment involved and must be evaluated independently for high-speed dispersers, sand grinders, roller mills, and pebble mills. The success of the dispersion and grinding process is reflected in the gloss and tint strength of the final paint and in the dispersion measurements made on the paint grind. As a final consideration, well-dispersed TiO2 particles must be stabilized within the paint system by either charge or steric stabilization.

    Flocculation, or loose clumping of TiO2 particles, may occur as the result of poor dispersion or mismatched surface interactions of the pigment with other components in the paint formulation brought on by temperature, pH, or improper type or concentration of dispersant. Flocculation should be avoided as it may lead to issues with viscosity, color acceptance, grind consistency, gloss and hiding in the paint film.


    Achieving maximal value for TiO2 in a coating is a combination of the inherent properties of the pigment, the appropriate choice of grade for the target application, and adequate dispersion in the coatings system. Properties such as pigment particle size and surface coating influence key paint behavior parameters such as gloss, durability, and opacity. Choosing the proper grade allows the user to maximize efficiency specific to the desired application. Proper dispersion of the TiO2 in the paint system will influence the time required to make the paint as well as properties such as color acceptance, tint strength, hiding and gloss. Therefore, all three considerations - inherent TiO2 characteristics, choice of grade, and proper dispersion - must be optimized to achieve maximal benefit from incorporation of TiO2 into a paint.

    Ti-Pure(r) is a registered trademark of DuPont for its brand of titanium dioxide.

    For more information on titanium dioxide, contact Stephen J. Hurff, Ti-Pure Product Manager, Coatings, DuPont Titanium Technologies, Chestnut Run Plaza, Building 709, Wilmington, DE 19880-0709; e-mail; phone 302/999.4140; fax 302/999.2479; or Circle Number 121.