Condensation, Corrosion and Coatings

May 20, 2013

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Condensation is a constant nuisance in any facility or mechanical setting where there is a situation in which humidity is drawn from the air and collects on the surface of materials in place. This will happen when the material’s temperature is below the environment’s dew point.

When condensation occurs it can collect on a surface and, over time, promote corrosion. The most common method to prevent this occurring is to insulate the materials, thus providing less of a differential between temperature and dew point. This works well as long as the materials remain sealed and intact. If there is leakage, however, the insulating material can actually serve to promote corrosion and create other long term moisture problems by retaining the condensation over time. Anytime there is moisture present over time mold and other health impacting conditions can begin to occur.

To combat this phenomenon, coatings manufacturers have been exploring the use of silica aerogel as an additive to paint. The properties of silica make it an effective insulating material. When added to paint it can increase the insulating value (reducing the thermal conductive properties) significantly. One study showed that the use of a highly insulative coating manufactured with silica aerogel could reduce the temperature of a coated surface by 10 degrees (F). The material was applied at 4 mm thickness.

This surface temperature reduction means that the coatings effectively raise the environment’s dew point by that same 10 degrees. This means that condensation will not form as readily (there is now a 10 degree higher “cushion”) as it will on an uncoated surface. That is a significant improvement. Again, having less condensation will reduce or eliminated corrosion.

By creating coatings that increase the thermal insulating properties of a surface, several advantages may be gained. As noted, reducing surface temperature reduces the occurrence of condensation. That means that the attendant problems of corrosion and mold are also reduced. This increases the life of the facility as well as its health and safety.

Additionally, because the coatings themselves have a high film build (meaning they are thicker), the need for several coats to provide thermal insulation is reduced. This means that installation costs can be comparable to other methods of insulating.

Finally, since the coatings are sprayed on, surfaces and configurations that previously were difficult to insulate (due to their location, their shape and size, etc.) can now be insulated with relative ease. This makes these coatings ideal for industrial facilities with systems piping, as well as for industrial tank painting and commercial facilities.

Whether you are constructing a new facility or retrofitting an older one (doing some much needed warehouse painting), if condensation is an issue, it would be worth looking into thermally insulative coatings. They may be the solution to your corrosion problem.

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