How Alkyd Coatings Turned Green

April 1, 2011

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Alkyd resin-based paints are commonly-used in the old days of construction. To painting contractors, their value is in their flexibility and ease of application in almost any kind of substrate. Furthermore, the coatings system turns out strong and long-lasting — able to withstand physical and chemical properties.

However, in current times when environmental deterioration is the concern of everyone, alkyd-based products have dropped in popularity and are relegated to the group of construction products that do not support green painting and construction. While alkyds are good performers, they are also oil-based formulations that use solvents in their composition. Green painting philosophy frowns on the use of high-VOC solvents that can harm the environment. 

In response, paint manufacturers begun investing heavily in research and development efforts to turn alkyd-based paint green. The challenge for them was for the formulation to achieve the same good performance minus the harmful VOCs. This led into the re-engineering of water-based alkyd paints, resulting to greener high-solid alkyds that are safe to handle, easy to cleanup, more and environment-friendly.

Water-Based, Zero-VOC, Green Painting Alkyds

Designing water-based and high-performing green painting alkyds was not an easy task to do for paint designers. The harmful solvents in oil-based alkyd formulations were the most critical component of the old product’s successful applicability. Coatings systems failure is imminent when the very basic act of applying paint is not done correctly. To solve this, designers introduce an emulsification process in water-soluble alkyd paints, making paint dispersion possible without the help of solvents. 

Manufacturers further added VOC-free colorants to these formulations, making the new chemistry achieve the same performance and durability as before, but this time more appropriate for green painting applications.

Water-Oil Hybrids

In turning alkyd paints into water-borne green painting solutions, the primary problem encountered by paint designers is the technical limitation of engineering materials with water, which is not a problem in harmful oil-based formulations. To solve this, they have come up with hybrid solutions, which use alkyd resins in water suspensions. 

Hybrids emit little noxious fumes and are easily cleaned with water. They are being used as primers suitable for exterior and interior green painting applications. They also come in a range of glossiness and tints, making them a good option for enhancing the look of surfaces.

The hybrids perform well technically — achieving good surface penetration, application and curing. They are also capable of withstanding damage like oil-based formulations.

Resin Innovations

Manufacturers also conducted research and development on the raw materials used in alkyd-based paint formulations, leading to green painting alkyds with re-engineered resin properties.

Water-borne alkyd resins were re-designed to allow for aqueous suspension and the same ease of dispersal as solvent-borne alkyds. The resins themselves were imbued with compatibility with other low-VOC coating products like epoxies, acrylics and urethanes. The resin-level technology allowed the retention of the conventional alkyd’s technical advantages, such as gloss chemistry, penetration properties, surface adhesion and flow.

The resin-level innovations pushed the technology forward in support of green painting applications. The process brought revelations to the paint industry, and one of them is that these green painting alkyd innovations are just the tip of the iceberg, and that there can be more possibilities waiting in the future.

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