Photo by Christian Ove Carlsson

New coating test methods could be worth gold to companies

Wednesday 06 Apr 16
by Lotte Grandorf


Søren Kiil
DTU Chemical Engineering
+45 45 25 28 27


Brit Bille Albrektsen
International Partnership Manager
Office for Study Programmes and Student Affairs
+45 45 25 10 66

Coating research in CHEC

Research into coatings is an important part of the portfolio of the CHEC research centre which provides in-depth knowledge on current coatings performance. The centre also develops mathematical models that quantify coating behaviour and designs experimental equipment for testing coatings.

CHEC's approach is based on classic chemical engineering tools combined with formulation expertise. The usefulness of the coatings research is secured through a close collaboration with the industry. CHEC is currently active within a wide range of coatings:

  • Antifouling coatings for biofouling control

  • Anticorrosive coatings for corrosion prevention

  • Intumescent coatings for passive fire protection

  • Erosion resistant blade coating for wind turbines

People. Planet. Profit. Coatings can contribute to improving the triple bottom line of companies. Whether they are providing people with longer escape times during fires, protecting the planet from excessive CO2 release in the maritime industry or preventing production stops to secure the profit of the cement industry, they are doing so as a result of extensive research. Over the years, the CHEC research centre has brought important insights to the science of coatings.

In the late 1990’s, the CHEC Research Centre at DTU Chemical Engineering initiated some of the very first projects that were to create robust coatings to protect ships against biofouling i.e. the accumulation of microorganisms, plants, algae or animals - or fouling - on the hulls during their often long voyages.

To the maritime industry, fouling represents an important environmental as well as financial challenge, as the fuel consumption of the ships is directly connected with the fouling. As the surface becomes more and more rough, the amount of energy needed to carry the same speed increases.                                     

To a company delivering antifouling coatings to the maritime industry, producing a coating that does not live up to its promise can be devastating for business.Therefore, much time goes into testing.

New test methods

However, according to a PhD project at DTU Chemical Engineering, currently applied testing methods do not always paint a realistic picture, as they only include testing of newly painted ships or they are only tested in a static environment that doesn’t account for the fact that the ships are moving most of the time.

“In reality, the coating is exposed to many different marine environments, weathers and amounts of friction depending on how much, where and at which speed the ship is sailing”, explains Asger Lindholdt, the man behind the project.

Together with a team of colleagues from CHEC, he designed a raft that was placed in the murky waters of Roskilde Bay for an entire year. On the raft were cylinders with different coatings that spend approximately 60 % of the time turning in order to simulate sailing, and approximately 40 % of the time staying still to simulate the ship lying in harbour.

An important research area

“I hope this new method will give paint companies a better opportunity to discover faults in the coatings during the early stages of testing and thereby provide their customers with more accurate guarantees”, says Asger Lindholdt.

His supervisors, Professor Kim Dam-Johansen and Associate Professor Søren Kill have 34 years of experience with coatings research between them. According to Søren Kiil, the testing of coatings is quite a significant research area of the centre.

“Another project that we completed this year, was on blade coatings for windmills. In this project we designed and constructed an accelerated test method for rain erosion and we were able to investigate the mechanisms underlying this complex phenomenon” says Søren Kiil.


A helping hand to the cement industry

According to Søren Kiil, CHEC also have some new and exciting projects for the testing of coatings. For instance, the research centre has recently started a large project in collaboration with FLSmidth and Hempel with support from Innovation Fund Denmark.

In this collaboration, CHEC aims to design new accelerated test methods and coatings for the cement and mineral industries to meet challenges related to acids and abrasive particles as well as sticky raw materials such as moist clay and gypsum.

“Last, but not least, we are also getting into anticorrosive coatings for high pressure conditions which can be used in oil- and gas pipelines. In this regard, a flexible pilot plant for testing under such extreme conditions has been built and we are now starting to experiment with various gases”, says Søren Kiil.

Reduced costs and improved work environments

The anticorrosive coatings are also a way in which companies can reduce their costs. The annual costs related to corrosion and corrosion prevention have been estimated to make up a significant part of the gross national product in the Western world.

Furthermore, apart from economic costs and technological delays, corrosion may also have dramatic consequences for people and the surrounding environment when for instance corrosion causes failures of bridges, buildings, aircrafts, automobiles and gas pipelines.  

Dangerous situations do not only derive from corrosion failures. In production environments for instance, workers need to be protected in their daily work. In this connection, new research into insulating coatings can help create a safer work environment.

“This year, we have conducted projects on insulation coatings, which can ensure “safe-touch” properties for workers on chemical plants and reduce heat loss from pipes and process equipment”, says Søren Kiil.

In the past, he has delivered important research into intumescent coatings that for instance can buy people precious time whenever a fire erupts - thus underlining the broad usability and not least, the importance of coatings for our people, planet and profits.

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