The 43rd Annual International Waterborne, High-Solids and Powder Coatings Symposium was held January 31-February 5 in New Orleans. Sponsored by the School of Polymers and High-Performance Materials at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM), the symposium was a great success, with 350 attendees, 47 presentations, 26 tabletop exhibits and 26 student posters.

Plenary speaker Kurt G. Olson, Research Fellow at PPG Industries, presented a talk titled “Environmentally Friendly Coatings: Historical Perspectives and Future Outlook.” Olson discussed the industry’s responsibility to make coatings have the lowest impact on the environment as possible. As part of this effort, major trends such as sustainability, new functionality, light weighting, energy management and asset protection have become a main focus for R&D in our industry.

Olson noted that to date, the coatings industry has achieved a number of accomplishments that have all had an impact on reducing the carbon footprint, including lead and tin removal, low-energy cure, advancements in application efficiency, corrosion control, thermal dissipation/reflection, and solvent removal. In fact, Olsen noted that approximately 15 billion fewer pounds of solvent are emitted per year since 1980.

“However, our mission is not complete. We still have work to do,” he stated. Hexavalent chromium use is still prevalent for corrosion control, as is the use of copper in antifouling coatings. And new regulatory issues involve removal of bisphenol-A, N-methyl pyrrolidone, cobalt drier, formaldehyde and isothiazolones from coatings. These regulations and safety concerns will continue to drive change in our industry.

Keynote speaker John Gilbert of Behr Process Corp. spoke on “Recent Trends in the Architectural Coatings Industry.” Gilbert discussed changes in the architectural market over the past 10 years, including  the use of water versus oil; reduction in VOCs; a focus on labor savings (paint and primer in one, and better hiding); opaque, solid-color deck restoration coatings; dirt pickup resistance; decorative concrete; and novel, eye-catching looks (natural stone and distressed surfaces) created by special application techniques.

It is clear that the coatings industry is a field rich in innovation. And nowhere is this innovation more evident than in the research being done at the university level.  PCI is proud to be partnering with USM to help our future coatings chemists. Beginning in March, PCI will host a Student of the Month on our website, Viewers can learn about each student’s background, interests and body of research. These students will be entering the workforce as early as this year and bring with them new energy and ideas. Please take some time each month to look at our featured student to see what they might bring to your company. We are excited to provide their information to you!