Australian scientists are working on an automotive paint that can help cool cars.
By reducing the absorption of heat in the form of solar near-infrared radiation (IR), a vehicle's internal temperature can be significantly reduced, leading to improved comfort and reducing the use of air-conditioning.
Professor Sati Bhattacharya, program leader and past director of the Rheology and Materials Processing Centre (RMPC), attached to the RMIT University, said the research involved synthesis of novel pigments, which in combination with suitable additives could provide a range of colours with high near-IR reflectivity.
"The main challenge in achieving the effect of heat reflection is the need for maintaining the desired colour, such as black, which absorbs most heat," Professor Bhattacharya said.
The search for a solution to this problem drove the original project, Cool pigments for automotive industry, which the RMPC conducted in 2007 with the Cooperative Research Centre for Advanced Automotive Technology (AutoCRC), Holden GM and Paintek.
The research program was further extended to applications other than coatings, such as plastics, and funded by AutoCRC from 2008 to 2010.
The RMPC began focusing its research and development into nano- and sub-micro pigments and composites five years ago, after identifying commercial opportunities for the nanocomposities area.
Initial research on clay/dye pigments led to a two-year project with Nanotechnology Victoria and Allied Colors and Additives.
As a result of industry needs, focus was placed on fluorescent pigments, resulting in an intellectual property development, protection and licensing agreement.
A provisional patent facilitated further development of the technology, leading to the preparation of a PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty) application, which was lodged in November last year.
The developed polymeric nanopigment technology - which can be used for a variety of consumer products - has been licensed to Aron International, a large pigment manufacturer that exports to more than 45 countries.
"The main benefits of the RMPC pigments are improved light fastness, thermal stability, and reduced leaching while maintaining fluorescence and colouristic properties of the product," Professor Bhattacharya said.
"Replacing the heavy metal-based pigments also helps protect the environment."
Professor Bhattacharya's team members on the nanopigment research are Research Fellows, Dr Ivan Ivanov, Dr Sumanta Raha and Dr Nurul Quazi and PhD candidates, Edwin Baez and Balwinder Kaur.