Smart coatings are materials that respond to a stimulus in the environment it is applied to, such as light, heat, and pressure. Just like how "smart metals" react in a certain way by coming back to its original shape, smart coatings give more strength and function to the materials it comes in contact with.
According to Jamil Baghdachi, a professor of Polymers and Coatings School of Engineering Technology in Michigan, smart coatings are materials "that are capable of adapting dynamically to an external stimulus are called responsive or 'smart.'" Additionally, he pointed out the ability of these coatings to sense the environment and send out an appropriate response. This responsive property makes smart coatings the ideal material to be used for a wide range of applications, including those in the renewable energy market.
Devising ways on how to save more energy is a primary goal of all industries. The use of smart coatings for wind turbines and solar panels is expected to become a hit in the next few years because more companies are turning to wind energy and photovoltaics (PV) to increase efficiency and to lower maintenance costs. Smart coatings give solar panels self-cleaning abilities, preventing dust and particle build-up, debris, and microbes. Aside from prolonging the life of solar panels, smart coatings also improve energy conversion.
Self-cleaning films on solar panels give much value, since they last longer than hydrophobic coatings. In relation, titanium dioxide nanoparticle-based inorganic coatings are found to be more useful and efficient than other kinds of coatings. These can improve the power insulation and generation capabilities of solar panels for up to 25 percent as they absorb UV rays from sunlight. Titanium dioxide coatings also maintain the surface clear by forming a film across the entire surface of the solar panel.
As for wind energy, the self-healing properties of smart coatings protect turbine blades from damage, and contamination. The wind energy sector is expected to be one of the industries to make use of smart coatings for its protective effect. These coatings lessen costs of maintenance, and are most likely to promote research initiatives for commercialization.
Smart coatings are made of nanomaterials, which are substances below 100 nanometers (NYSE:NM) in one dimension. Examples include carbon nanotubes, clays, antimicrobial particles and UV screening particles, such as titanium, cerium, and zinc oxides.
The rising demand for smart coatings means that more titanium will be needed to sustain what the renewable market needs. Titanium deposits are currently being mined and developed for a steady global supply of high-grade rutile, as in the case of Chile's White Mountain Titanium Corporation (OTCQB:WMTM). White Mountain Titanium sits on a rich deposit containing 112 tons of high-grade rutile. Once the company starts production, the high-grade titanium will be supplied to the renewable energy market. Some of these results include cost-cutting, and most importantly, making the environment a better place to live in.