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Home > Press > Reducing energy usage with nano-coatings

Metal strip coated with thermochromic nanoparticles. At temperatures above 30° Celsius (about 86 °F), the coating is transparent and the metal underneath reflects heat. © Fraunhofer ICT
Metal strip coated with thermochromic nanoparticles. At temperatures above 30° Celsius (about 86 °F), the coating is transparent and the metal underneath reflects heat.

© Fraunhofer ICT

Thermochromic nano-coatings employed appropriately can help reduce energy usage and generate savings. The coatings either absorb heat or permit its reflection, depending on their temperature. Researchers will demonstrate this phenomenon using samples of coated metal strips at the Fraunhofer Joint Booth in Hall 3, Booth D26 during the Hanover Trade Show (April 13-17, 2015).

Reducing energy usage with nano-coatings

Muenchen, Germany | Posted on April 9th, 2015

Minute dimensions - major effects. Nanoparticles possess an especially large surface-area-to-volume ratio. This makes them extremely efficient and reactive. Tiny amounts are sufficient to produce large effects. Researchers of the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT in Pfinztal near Karlsruhe are utilizing this characteristic
to create novel coatings. They are incorporating active nano-materials into polymer systems. These coatings can be applied easily like paint or varnish.

Finely distributing nanoparticles in polymers

"However, the special properties of nano-composites only become apparent if the particles do not clump so that an agglomeration is avoided," explains Helmut Schmid from Fraunhofer ICT. The scientist together with colleagues at the Institute therefore developed a process through which the nanoparticles are distributed uniformly in the polymer matrix. "In addition, integrating the nanoparticles in the plastic system provides extra safety. The binding forces prevent the uncontrolled release of individual nanoparticles," explains Schmid. "We can prove this using analytical techniques able to detect extremely small concentrations of substances."

The process is highly adaptable and suited to processing quite varied nanomaterials. Additional advantages: small amounts of substances can be bound in environmentally-friendly, water-based systems of plastics that release hardly any volatile organic compounds. These coatings can be applied directly without first requiring a primer coat - experts refer to this property as "direct-to-metal"." In addition, the layers prevent oxygen from reaching the metal and thereby protect against corrosion.

Reduced energy usage through color change

Researchers at Fraunhofer ICT worked together with partners in industry under a project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) on novel nano-coatings for metallic wire and strip. The experts developed thermochromic coatings during the project that change color depending on their temperature. The coatings thereby either absorb heat or become transparent and permit its reflection "Metal strip possesses very special properties when coated in this way. If temperatures are below 30 °Celsius (about 86 °F), the black coating absorbs heat. If it is warmer, the color changes. The varnish, which has now become transparent, allows the infrared radiation to be reflected," Schmid explains.[ Strip and wire coated like this are useful in architectural applications. They can be interwoven and used as exterior self-regulating thermal cladding for walls and façades to help cool buildings passively and thereby reduce operating costs. The researchers are continuing to work on additional nano-systems such as coatings with luminescent properties, for instance. These kinds of effects are useful for safety markings and signage. The coatings can also help clearly differentiate branded products from pirated copies, since pirates do not have these kinds of luminescent nano-coatings at their disposal.

Metallic and carbon nano-coatings for particles and powder

Researchers with the Application Center for Plasma and Photonics of the Fraunhofer Institute for Surface Engineering and Thin Films IST in Braunschweig have also become involved in nanotechnology. They are designing particle surfaces with beneficial properties by applying for example carbon or metallic nano-coatings. Specific particles surrounded by a 1-2 nm carbon nano-coating become more electrically conductive and this leads to an enhanced performance of lithium-ion batteries.

Nano-coated micro-particles have other advantages as well: if you apply titanium nitride or copper to stainless steel particles, for example, the substance no longer agglomerates. A powder treated in this way can then be used to metalize temperature-sensitive materials like plastic or paper. But how can layers of thin metal be homogeneously applied to even three-dimensional surfaces? The IST scientists employ plasma spraying for this purpose. For example, nano-shaped particles of stainless steel are thermally activated using an atmospheric-pressure plasma process and are deposited as a metal film onto the material to be coated.

The Fraunhofer researchers will be presenting these and the results of other research at the Fraunhofer Joint Booth entitled "Surface" in Hall 3, D26.


About Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft
The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is the leading organization for institutes of applied research in Europe, undertaking contract research on behalf of industry, the service sector and the government. Commissioned by customers in industry, it provides rapid, economical and immediately applicable solutions to technical and organizational problems. Within the framework of the European Union's technology programs, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is actively involved in industrial consortiums which seek technical solutions to improve the competitiveness of European industry.

The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

Research of practical utility lies at the heart of all activities pursued by the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. Founded in 1949, the research organization undertakes applied research that drives economic development and serves the wider benefit of society. Its services are solicited by customers and contractual partners in industry, the service sector and public administration. The organization also accepts commissions from German federal and Laender ministries and government departments to participate in future-oriented research projects with the aim of finding innovative solutions to issues concerning the industrial economy and society in general.

Applied research has a knock-on effect that extends beyond the direct benefits perceived by the customer: Through their research and development work, the Fraunhofer Institutes help to reinforce the competitive strength of the economy in their local region, and throughout Germany and Europe. They do so by promoting innovation, accelerating technological progress, improving the acceptance of new technologies, and not least by disseminating their knowledge and helping to train the urgently needed future generation of scientists and engineers.

As an employer, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft offers its staff the opportunity to develop the professional and personal skills that will allow them to take up positions of responsibility within their institute, in other scientific domains, in industry and in society. Students working at the Fraunhofer Institutes have excellent prospects of starting and developing a career in industry by virtue of the practical training and experience they have acquired.

At present, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft maintains more than 80 research units, including 56 Fraunhofer Institutes, at 40 different locations in Germany. The majority of the 12,500 staff are qualified scientists and engineers, who work with an annual research budget of €1.2 billion. Of this sum, more than €1 billion is generated through contract research. Two thirds of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft’s contract research revenue is derived from contracts with industry and from publicly financed research projects. Only one third is contributed by the German federal and Laender governments in the form of institutional funding, enabling the institutes to work ahead on solutions to problems that will not become acutely relevant to industry and society until five or ten years from now.

Affiliated research centers and representative offices in Europe, the USA and Asia provide contact with the regions of greatest importance to present and future scientific progress and economic development.

The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is a recognized non-profit organization which takes its name from Joseph von Fraunhofer (1787-1826), the illustrious Munich researcher, inventor and entrepreneur.

For more information, please click here

Stefan Tröster
Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT
+49 721 4640-392

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