Nanoscratch

NANOSCRATCH – To develop a scratch resistance coating using a molecular self assembly nano-technology for plastic products

The majority of plastic materials have a limited scratch resistance when compared to other materials, for instance ceramics, glass and metals. These negative aesthetic properties limit the polymers from being used in a broad range of applications and market sectors and as a result; leading companies in this sector are making a significant effort to overcome this challenge.

In order to solve the problem of polymeric surfaces scratching, several technologies are being researched. Generally speaking, one accepted approach is to use coatings or laminates. Another possibility that is also currently investigated in order to improve the behaviour of the material when being scratched is based on the use of loads (Wollastonite, nanoclays), slip factors or silicone based additives. However, none of these current methods are completely adequate.

Coatings are one of the most advanced technologies. Generally, coatings are applied in order to protect, improve or decorate different products. However, there is a low adhesion between the coating and the plastic material due to the low polarity of the latter. Therefore, a way to increase this plastic-coating adhesion involves increasing the surface energy of the plastic through different methods: exposure to different high energy sources such as flame, corona, plasma and UV radiation treatments. In general, a material with a high surface energy is more easily ‘saturated’ by the coating, and so the substrate is easier to paint and the adhesion between both phases improves. Nevertheless, disadvantages still exist when these methods are used.

In order to solve these disadvantages, a new technology has been developed based on molecular self assembly (SAM), and it is one of the most promising techniques to create a coating that is resistant to scratching at a competitive price. In this line, company Avanzare is a key element in the project because of the SAM development with thermoplastic materials. With this technology, it is possible to create strong bonds between the coatings and the plastic surfaces regardless of its polarity, maintaining the appearance of the original part.

Based on SAM technology, the NANOSCRATCH project has worked on the development of an innovative technology for a high performance scratch-resistant coating for plastics, at a low cost, using a custom made process and which is environmentally friendly.

NANOSCRATCH “To develop a scratch resistance coating using a molecular self assembly nano-technology for plastic products”, a FP7 Capacities project financed by the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Commission (GA nº 232100), with a duration of 24 months (2009-2011), was formed by 10 partners from 5 different countries: 2 large companies, 5 SMEs, 2 research centres and a university are involved in the project with a total budget of 870.000€. Details on the Consortium can be found at the NANOSCRATCH Project website.

The main innovations of the project are:

  • Developing an environmentally friendly and profitable technology for treating the surface of plastic parts.
  • Achieving a weight reduction, and therefore CO2 emissions, in the vehicles by replacing glass parts for new transparent plastic materials such as PMMA with high resistance coatings.
  • Increasing the recyclability of the final products and reducing the weight and costs if parts made with PVC, ABS or PC/ABS (materials with better scratch properties than polypropylene) are replaced by PP parts with a high scratch resistance.
  • Increasing the application range in which the plastic parts with a scratch resistance can be used.

The new coatings developed are able to be applied to low scratch resistant polymers such as PP, ABS and PP/EPDM or in its optimization for PMMA. The coated plastics have turned into an alternative to heavier and more expensive materials, such as metals, ceramics, crystal and high cost technical plastics. The new coating technology is based on the combined use of nanoparticles and molecules with self-assembling properties specific to each one of the materials previously specified.

This new technology that has been developed in the NANOSCRATCH project is expected to have a significant impact on the plastic industry; improving the current plastic properties and offering a greater range of applications. Although the project’s development is aimed at the automotive sector and the white goods industry, the results of the project are able to be applied to other diverse sectors, such as electronics in computers, DVD or in artificial ceramic surface plates.

The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement nº 232100 (NANOSCRATCH).

The information published reflects only the NANOSCRATCH consortium views and the Community is not liable for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.

Project link and more information: http://www.nanoscratch-project.eu/