Soy-Capped Polycarbonate Dendrimers for Tough, Sustainable Water-Based Wood CoatingsEPA Contract Number: EPD15010
Title: Soy-Capped Polycarbonate Dendrimers for Tough, Sustainable Water-Based Wood Coatings
Investigators: Cameron, Randy E.
Small Business: Instrumental Polymer Technologies, LLC
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Project Period: November 1, 2014 through October 31, 2016 (Extended to October 31, 2017)
Project Amount: $300,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase II (2014) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , SBIR - Innovation in Manufacturing
The environmental impact of wood coatings has become a pressing issue as the manufacturing of wooden products such as flooring, cabinetry, furniture and doors moves back to the United States amidst rising labor costs overseas. For 30 years, the bulk of these products have been painted in countries with lax environmental regulations, allowing the use of inexpensive but environmentally hazardous oil-based alkyd coatings.
Wood furniture manufacturers in the United States generally use polyurethane coatings with low volatile organic components (VOCs). In fact, this niche portion of the wood furniture coatings market is the largest use for polyurethane coatings. But they are too expensive for use on most wood furniture and are also based on toxic and unsustainable chemistry. Ideal would a low cost and sustainable, oil-based polymer system that had no VOCs, could clean up with water, and offered the wear and stain resistance of polyurethane coatings. It would help manufacturers compete for the bulk wood products business while also motivate them to replace environmentally toxic polyurethane with a green coatings technology.
Ironically, the best source for inexpensive, high performance oil-based polymer is nanotechnology. Instrumental Polymer Technologies has developed a unique evolution polymerization process to produce high molecular weight dendrimers at low cost and with sustainable raw materials. Dendrimers are spherical polymers that branch out from their center, resulting in a specific core and surface, like a cell. In Phase I, the company demonstrated the synthesis of high molecular weight dendrimers with a core of tough polycarbonate and with soy methyl ester, otherwise known as common biodiesel, attached to the dendrimer’s surface. Amino acids were bound to the core to achieve water dispersibility. With viscosity only slightly higher than oil, the dendrimers had the unique property of being able to be applied as 100 percent solids, but easily dispersed in water for easy cleanup. Air dried films had properties nearing that of polyurethane coatings. They also were found to create a uniquely smooth, high gloss finish that will reduce sanding and buffing steps.
In Phase II, Instrumental Polymer Technologies will develop the concept into a marketable product which is cheaper than alkyds but with performance equivalent to that of polyurethane coatings. The resulting dendrimers will marketed as a raw material to wood coatings producers through the current distribution network. Several coatings manufacturers have already shown interest in sampling the technology. Production will use reactors currently used for polycarbonate polyol production.