LOWER HUTT, New Zealand - A joint project between New Zealand-based companies GNS Science and Resene Paints will develop a new low-cost way of producing a powder containing metal oxide nanoparticles that can be readily incorporated into existing paint manufacturing methods. Once the technology is perfected for roof coatings, it is likely to be available for other applications such as marine and automotive coating products, said project leader John Kennedy of GNS Science.

“The global market for colored coatings with infrared reflective pigments is valued at $250 million a year, and it is growing at about 12 percent annually,” said Kennedy. “Improvements in reflectance will translate into much greater value for consumers due to reduced energy bills, lower maintenance and replacements costs, plus a larger color range.”

GNS Science has designed and built a prototype chamber that produces the reflective powder containing metallic oxide nanoparticles. Quantities produced are small, but is enough to allow continued development of the technology.

Once the process is perfected, it would be easy to scale up production to supply commercial quantities of the powder, said Kennedy.

“Producing the power is the easy part. The main focus of our research at present is perfecting a chemical process that will modify the powder so it mixes evenly in the paint and will result in a coating that reflects evenly across an entire surface.”

When the powder is produced in a specially patented process at GNS Science, the nanoparticles occur in crystalline form, with the atoms arranged in a firmly bound lattice structure. Kennedy and his team are currently developing a chemical process that will separate the particles so they disperse evenly through the paint. Only a small amount of the metallic oxide powder – about one percent by volume – was needed to significantly enhance the infrared reflectivity of a paint, he said.

Trials of the new production process are expected to be completed by late 2014, and commercial production could start as early as 2015.