A new type of ceramic coating now on the market is not only completely VOC-free but is also promising to deliver an abrasion-, corrosion-, high-temperature, and chemical-resistant finish that can be applied in a high build, single coat with no primer by a licensed contractor.

Sound too good to be true? Perhaps but the 100 percent VOC-free product originally conceived at Argonne National Laboratory for the Department of Energy as a method of shielding radioactive waste is an intriguing reinvention of the way paint has traditionally been manufactured and applied.

With the drive toward lower VOC paints and coatings throughout the industry, the trade-off has been in the performance of the product. The ingredients in coatings that emit VOCs, after all, serve a vital function-essentially keeping the components from reacting and hardening prior to use.

The answer, it turns out, is to remove the very reason VOCs exist in paint in the first place. The new ceramic coating does not come pre-mixed. Instead, the coating consists of two, non-hazardous ingredients that do not interact until applied by a plural component spray gun like those commonly used to apply polyurethane foam or polyurea coatings. Since the components are not mixed and do not meet prior to application, the need for VOC-generating ingredients is completely eliminated.

The final ceramic coating, which is more comparable to a thin layer of cement approximately 6 mils (2mm) thick than traditional paint, delivers a tough-as-nails corrosion-resistant coating that can stand up to just about any application in the industrial, commercial or residential sector. 

Contractor Appeal

When Andy Robbins, CEO of A & K Painting, a Charlotte, N.C.,-based industrial and commercial paint contractor that does work in five states, first heard about the new ceramic coating the concept intrigued him.

“The environmental guidelines of the last decade are rapidly becoming standards,” says Robbins. “Since environmental codes are tightening for new builds, remodels, and existing facilities, reducing or eliminating VOCs in paint has been a growing concern for us and our customers.”

Captivated by the possibilities the protective ceramic coating presented, Robbins stayed in touch with the developer, EonCoat LLC, ultimately visiting the plant, participating in testing, and providing R&D feedback from the professional paint contractors’ perspective.

“For industrial and commercial customers looking to limit VOCs and HAPs to meet stricter regulation, EonCoat is a proactive way to do so,” says Robbins. “Before the two components are combined in the spray gun, they’re kept separate and, if spilled, are easily cleaned up as mild, non-hazardous substances. After they’re combined, they’re completely consumed and dry within seconds of application. There are no fumes. Contractors could literally spray within 10 feet of someone working in an occupied space with no concern for odor or getting residue on carpet, computers, or office furniture.”

Labor Savings

One coat application and minimal prep for the protective ceramic coating can save paint contractors up to 40 percent, since labor is cut in half and labor is typically about 70 percent of the cost of painting. Unlike paint, which usually requires a primer coat and two topcoats with at least eight hours drying time between each, the ceramic coating’s natural corrosion protection eliminates the need for a primer and a second topcoat. Because it dries within seconds of exiting the spray nozzle, high build coatings in one coat are possible. This accelerates facility maintenance return to service.

“Since the protective ceramic coating is dry to the touch in seconds, there’s no wait to recoat,” says Robbins. “Contractors can high build exterior or interior surfaces immediately, which can expedite tight customer schedules. That means many coating jobs in occupied areas could get done in a single day or weekend, instead of taking several weekends waiting for multiple coats of primer or paint to dry.”

The ceramic coating bonds through a chemical reaction with the substrate, and slight surface oxidation actually improves the reaction. This makes it virtually impossible for corrosion promoters like oxygen and humidity to get behind the coating the way they can with ordinary paints. The corrosion barrier is covered by a true ceramic shell, which resists fire, water, abrasion, chemicals, corrosion, and temperatures up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fire Resistance

The coating has a flame spread rating of zero, which means that flame can be directly exposed to its coated surface and it will not catch fire unless enough heat is generated to make the substrate behind the coating self-ignite.

“The anti-fire, anti-water, anti-abrasion, and anti-corrosion benefits of the new protective ceramic coating make it a promising product to use for a host of applications from extending the service life of tanks, machinery, steam pipes, and cement floors to serving as slimmer, less costly alternative to existing bulky firewalls,” says Robbins.

Another plus for contractors is how the protective ceramic coating can be applied on hot or cold surfaces from 35 degrees to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, which, unlike paint, makes it suitable for all weather application. “If we’re not painting or coating a substrate, we’re not making money,” says Robbins. “Hot or cold weather can halt a paint job; that’s not the case with the protective ceramic coating. It works well in high or low temperature, which means contractors keep working.

“I’d have trouble believing its properties if I hadn’t seen them myself in hands-on application and testing,” he continues. “It opens possibilities for contractors from new builds, to retrofits, to maintenance in industrial, commercial, and even residential settings. My only concern is that our application of the protective ceramic coating does justice to the product itself. That’s why my company’s staff will get EonCoat-certified as soon as we’re able to.”