In its latest report on emerging technologies, Lux Research has put the spotlight on opportunities for smart coatings. The firm’s analysis highlights the power of partnerships in translating breakthroughs from the lab to the market, which has implications for start-ups in the field of advanced materials. To find out more, TMR+ spoke with Anthony Schiavo, an analyst at Lux Research and lead author of Surfaces Get Smarter: Scouting Emerging Coatings, Markets and Functionalities.
New roles beyond protection
“Today, coatings can do more than just provide protection,” said Schiavo. “They are finding new roles and replacing other components such as inspection systems.” Examples can be found in the US Navy, which has patented a resin that releases a distinct odour when broken. This feature can be exploited to alert crew members to corrosion and mechanical fatigue in out of sight areas of a ship or aircraft.
The Navy system has been designed with the human nose in mind, but there are automated solutions out there too. Another approach involves coating RFID tags with a conductive layer. “When the coating is damaged, the signal will propagate,” explained Schiavo.
Smart materials as a service
The oil and gas sector is another strong prospect for smart coatings, but as Schiavo points out – performance is only part of the picture. Materials suppliers need to pick the right revenue model to ramp up their business.
“Solutions will be more attractive to potential customers if providers can supply advanced materials and coatings as a service rather than a product,” he said. “Suppliers can lower the barrier to entry by tying the value of their products directly to performance, in this case an improvement in downtime figures, rather than attempting to sell tonnes of material outright in advance.”
Winners in the consumer electronics segment include firms such as P2i, a provider of chemically bonded hydrophobic coatings, which allow device partners to add-value in highly competitive sectors such as the mobile phone market. “The differentiation you get on a raw technology basis can be very short-lived,” commented Schiavo. “Smart coatings help manufacturers to strengthen the appeal of their products.”
Other exciting firms to watch include LiquiGlide and SLIPS Technologies, which are positioned to impact packaging. Like P2i, their value proposition can be communicated in just a few seconds of video or by a quick product demo, which makes it much easier for these companies to pitch their technology to potential partners.
Read next –
From protecting soldiers to protecting mobile phones (Stephen Coulson, Translational Materials Research)
Materials inspired by nature (physicsworld.com)