How Malvern Panalytical helps enable smarter, more sustainable chemicals and coatings solutions

As anyone in these industries knows, getting your formulation right is key to delivering the perfect paint, the cleverest coating, or the most luxurious laundry detergent. Patricia Kidd, Segment Marketing Manager for Chemicals and Coatings, discusses the latest chemicals and coatings innovation, the importance of using the best components and understanding your formulation, and how Malvern Panalytical’s solutions are helping to drive sustainability in chemicals and coatings manufacture.

What are the main challenges and opportunities in today’s chemicals and coatings industry?

The chemicals and coatings markets are huge – and constantly growing. But a challenge that unites all segments within these industries is the drive toward more sustainable solutions. Chemicals and coatings have always been highly regulated, but it’s increasingly challenging to keep pace with restrictions around the use of solvents, the presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and the requirements for very low toxicity levels. There are also supply chain challenges, such as scarce transport resources and rising raw material costs, which are – of course – shared by several industries today.

However, for companies that can meet these challenges, the opportunities are huge! Consumers are increasingly looking for bio-based solutions that offer durability, high performance, and even smart functionality. Manufacturers that can develop more sustainable, innovative formulations and perfect their production process will reap the benefits of this rising market demand.

So, how does Malvern Panalytical help customers address these challenges and capitalize on the opportunities in the market?

To ensure that manufacturers meet stringent regulations and drive efficiency in their operations, it’s essential that they monitor their materials closely throughout the production process. We have numerous technologies to help companies analyze particle size and shape, elemental composition, crystal structure, and more. These properties directly influence factors like toxicity, application, viscosity, and even color. 

Our XRF tools, for example, are a great solution for monitoring toxicity levels in coatings. Our Mastersizer instrument uses laser diffraction to measure particle size (which influences hue, tint strength, coverage, and gloss in paint). For measuring the molecular weight of polymers, which is important for monitoring viscosity, we have our OMNISEC tool. Or, for measuring the composition of a formulation, we have an extensive range of X-ray diffraction (XRD) instruments. I think I could almost say that there’s a Malvern Panalytical tool for every stage of the chemicals and coatings production line!

What do you think is the biggest trend emerging in the chemicals and coatings world right now?

If you look around at almost any industry right now, you’ll see there are two major trends: making products ‘smarter’ and making manufacturing processes more sustainable. I’ve mentioned the importance of sustainability to these industries, but it really is a huge driver for a lot of companies at the moment. Every part of the process is under scrutiny for change. Manufacturers are responding to this by, for example, looking toward bio-based solvents, enhancing the coverage and durability of their coatings (to reduce the amount of product needed per application and extend service life), and using biodegradable binders. 

In terms of making chemicals and coatings ‘smarter’, there are a lot of exciting developments in these industries right now. Whether it’s high-performance coatings that can withstand space travel, electrical inks that enable the printing of functional circuits, or light-emitting paints that can illuminate our homes, manufacturers are increasingly looking at ways to enhance chemical and coating capabilities. It’s important to see these solutions as more than just functional – these are truly aspirational products.

How do you ensure that your solutions live up to the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) expectations that today’s stakeholders demand?

On the governance side, safety is paramount. Regulations on toxins, for instance, are in place to protect end-consumers, and chemicals and coatings producers take their responsibility to ensure safety very seriously. And this is where Malvern Panalytical can help. Our tools help manufacturers to measure and monitor the chemical composition of different formulations, and this is critical to ensuring products are safe and fit for use. 

When it comes to environmental expectations, our tools enable the development of more sustainable solutions in several ways. Firstly, we provide the tools manufacturers need to create the right formulation for their products, meaning they can consistently deliver high-quality and stable solutions that perform and last well. Second, our tools help to drive efficiency in the manufacturing process, which means raw materials are used efficiently, waste is limited, and the carbon footprint of operations is reduced. In this way, we enable our customers to show that they comply with their industry regulations. Finally, we ensure that we adhere to our own strict environmental targets, which means our instruments naturally comply with our customers’ ESG requirements.

Finally, what does the future look like for chemicals and coatings?

I believe there’s a really bright future for chemicals and coatings. Though these aren’t necessarily industries you could describe as ‘taking off’, they have always experienced continued and steady growth.  I don’t see that growth slowing down any time soon. 

The demand for smart and sustainable solutions is coming from across the chemicals and coatings market – from inks, paints, and adhesives, all the way to household products and smart coatings. I think we’re going to continue to see a lot of innovation in organic electronics, optoelectronics, and conducting polymers – which are already playing a growing role in our day-to-day lives. Meanwhile, I think the market demand for greater sustainability is going to drive some important changes in the way we manufacture chemicals and coatings. It’s exciting to think that Malvern Panalytical’s solutions will help enable this transition. 

To find out more about our chemicals and coatings solutions for researchers and manufacturers, visit our Specialty Chemicals page.