Sol-gel is a chemical route to the manufacture of ceramics and inorganic-organic hybrid materials. Whilst it is generally viewed as a relatively new industrial technology, it is used extensively in a number of industries, such as abrasive powder manufacture, optical fibres, etc.
The most widespread commercial use of sol-gel is in the fabrication and deposition of coatings. The role of the coating may be to provide one or more of a number of functions:
- Chemical protection
- Mechanical protection
- Optical properties
- Electronic properties
- Catalytic activity
Like all new technologies, the scale-up to full industrial exploitation for sol-gel has been slow, although there is a preliminary supply infrastructure in place, notably in Europe and the US.
The primary challenges for the technology are cost reduction based on the economies of scale, and the identification of critical products that require large scale manufacture.
The products available at the moment are most typically high performance/high value coatings.
Displacement of conventional products will occur under the twin driving forces of legislative changes and the requirement of higher performance, and particularly multi-functional products.
TWI has considerable experience in the use of sol-gel methods particularly in the development of advanced, high performance coatings for a number of industrial sectors.
We take pride in offering a full and rounded solution to our Members, and take great care to ensure that we recommend the chemistry and methods that best suit your circumstances, paying particular attention to:
- Coating deposition and curing process selection
- Functional performance and long term durability
- Supply chain considerations
- Legislative considerations (e.g. VOC content)
- Judicious use of new technologies and materials to achieve challenging targets
Our advice is always impartial because we are not allied to the suppliers of any particular raw materials or formulation chemistry.
Current research projects include the development of novel anti-fouling coatings, new coatings for lead based battery technologies, superior performance coatings for the protection of wood.
Internal research over the last 15 years has resulted in our innovative and versatile approach to coatings and includes our proprietary new coating building block technology Vitolane®.
Our track record includes the use of sol-gel gel methods to development coatings for applications in the following sectors for:
- Plastic electronics
- High temperature electronics
- Power storage (battery power)
- Solar power application
- Automotive glazing
- Medical devices
- Oil and gas