Black and white pigments comprise the foundation of many coatings formulations. Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is by far the most important and widely used white pigment in the coatings industry. It imparts whiteness, brightness and opacity to coating formulations. Black pigments help to protect both the coating and the underlying substrate from the harmful effects of ultraviolet light. They are used in a wide variety of applications including automotive, decorative and industrial applications.
"TiO2 has the greatest scattering potential of all white pigments and it delivers the most cost effective opacity of any white pigment," said Carlos Verdejo, global offering manager for coatings, DuPont Titanium Technologies.
The key to using TiO2 as efficiently as possible is choosing the correct grade. "The market for long-lasting products continues to grow, and with it the importance of using the right grade of TiO2," said Verdejo. "TiO2 plays a complex role in paint durability. TiO2 itself is extremely durable, but the organic resin of the paint is not. One of the greatest threats to organic resin is UV light, which has enough energy to break chemical bonds in the resin polymer. The primary role of TiO2 is beneficial, it absorbs virtually all of the UV light it encounters, protecting the underlying resin in the process."
Carbon black also works to absorb UV light and impart durability to a coating. "Carbon black has been used in coatings for many years to provide color, UV protection and in some specialized applications, conductivity," said David Reynolds, global market manager, Cabot Corp. "These basic functional requirements have not changed in many years and probably will not change in the near future.
"Of course, consumers preferences are constantly changing and performance requirements are increasing," Reynolds continued. "As a pigment supplier, we are constantly working to understand what problems these changes create for coatings formulators and how we can modify our products to work in their new formulations. Once we develop new solutions, our global reach allows us to deliver these solutions around the world."
BASF offers a range of organic and inorganic black pigments that perform in unique ways to reduce heat build-up in all coated surfaces.
"BASF's functional black pigments play a key role in extending the life of many products," said Thierry Chevrier, director, BASF performance chemicals-coating and plastic chemicals, North America. "Sicopla and Meteor IR reflective black pigments and Lumogen IR transparent black pigments are used to reduce the external heat build-up of coatings, thereby reducing the rate of oxidation thermal degradation of the paint film. This delivers multiple benefits, including the extension of the life of the paint film and reduced need to re-coat or perhaps protect the material underneath the paint, for example, applications such as sensitive electronic components. These pigments are also used in applications such as roofing, marine and automotive."
While black and white pigment producers enjoy widespread use, they continue to feel the pressure from rising costs of feedstocks. The cost of raw materials and utilities have been escalating at an unprecedented rate.
"In the past costs of key raw materials like TiO2 feedstock, as well as secondary ones like petroleum, coke, caustic, sulfuric acid and phosphoric acid, would increase by factors of percentages," said Verdejo. "Currently, the costs of these raw materials are increasing by factors of double, triple or even quadruple. The underlying factors for these rising costs are increased energy prices, as well as strong demand for these raw materials in industries other than pigmentary TiO2, like Ti-metal for TiO2 feedstock, or biofuels for sulfuric acid and phosphoric acid."
To offset escalating raw material prices, DuPont continues to focus on productivity, energy efficiency and sustainability initiatives. "For example, we have managed to cut our energy consumption per pound of products by thirty percent, saving over $100 million," said Verdejo. "In addition, to these internal efforts, several price increases have been announced in 2008 around the global. The rate of change in raw material far exceeds the rate of change in TiO2 prices and the gap between the two continues to expand rapidly. For 2009, costs are slated to continue to escalate to structurally higher levels. DuPont continues to work on excellence in sourcing, productivity, pricing, product innovation and sustainable growth to serve our customers with highest value in the industry."
Petroleum-based carbon black pigments are also feeling the pressure. "As petroleum products are the primary raw materials used in the manufacturing process for carbon black, the prolonged rise in oil prices has had a significant effect on our business in much the same way that rising energy prices have affected coatings manufacturers and other raw material suppliers," said Reynolds. "We are pursuing every means possible to mitigate the effects of this rise in energy prices. Examples of our efforts to manage energy costs include investing in energy savings technologies at our plants and optimizing our supply chain to reduce working capital requirements."
In response to the trend toward greener products, Cabot is investing in research to develop pigments suitable for the changing needs of coatings formulators. "One such example of a new product is our Emperor 2000 pigment for automotive basecoats," said Reynolds. "Designed specifically for use in water-based formulations, this product features new technology which delivers best in class color performance and pigment dispersion stability. Now that this technology has been proven in automotive coatings, we are working to commercialize additional products for other coatings applications."
BASF's Xfast stir-in pigments were developed as a direct result of collaborations with its customers. "X-fast pigments are innovative, environmentally friendly granules that are used to color water-based paint systems," said Chevrier. "They are free of solvents, alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEOs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). They offer many features that help customers increase the efficiency of their process, including pigment concentrations equal to or above 80%, easy dispersion and dust-free particles. Additionally, they have an extensive shelf-life and are free of surfactant incompatibilities. Xfast pigments are easy to handle, resulting in a clean workplace, and do no require milling, which eliminates the need for expensive dispersion equipment and electricity cost."
DuPont Titanium Technologies recently launched two new products into the coatings market. "One, TS-6200, is designed as a multipurpose grade with excellent dispersibility and with durability that is unequaled in the market place," said Verdejo. "The second is Ti-Pure R-902+, an improved version of our R-902, one of our more mature offerings. R-902 dispersibility has been increased while retaining all other performance attributes. In addition, we have several 'product concepts' in our product development pipe line that will help us deliver more value and keep differentiating our product offering in the market place."