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Sci Tech

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Low cost waterproofing process through nanotechnology

  • The need for heat in the process is eliminated
  • Manufacturing line space is reduced by 80 per cent
  • Energy consumption is cut by 75 per cent

    THE CONVENTIONAL method of waterproofing paper involves vinyl coatings or compressing polypropylene fibres on it.

    The process is not only expensive but also makes the paper waxy and tough to write on. Ecology Coatings, Inc., based in Akron, Ohio, U.S., has now come up with a dramatic breakthrough technology for making ordinary wood pulp-based paper fully waterproof as well as mildew resistant at a much lower cost than the conventional process.

    The material involved is Ecology Coating's proprietary 100 per cent solids formulations combining nano as well as micro particles. It contains no water, toxic solvents or other liquid components that need to evaporate for the coating to set; it is cured by ultraviolet light. This eliminates the need for heat in the process, reduces manufacturing line space by 80 per cent and cuts energy consumption by 75 per cent.

    Proprietary process

    The application method is neither dip, nor spray, nor rolled.

    It is a proprietary process, which can be best described as hurling the material onto the paper, such that it becomes impregnated with the nanoparticles. Consequently, there is no problem with staying power of the coating — it is ingrained in the paper.

    You can soak the paper for over a month without the waterproofing nanoparticles coming off.

    Unlike existing waterproof paper, this paper can be written on with pencil as well as inks, all the while maintaining the original look and feel of paper as well — no shiny, slick surfaces here.

    Nothing prohibitive

    "There's nothing that we see that is prohibitive in terms of the process," says Rich Stromback, CEO of Ecology. "The technique can easily be put into place on existing paper production lines."

    Initially the high-performance, cost-saving waterproof paper will benefit industries that already invest in special labels or protective paper.

    For example, waterproof labels on shipping materials can now be cheaply manufactured and then left in the rain without bagging, further reducing material costs.

    "But that's just a start," says Sally Ramsey, founder of Ecology Coatings. The process can be used to spray a waterproof, writable surface on sleeping bags, sporting equipment, shoes, volleyball nets and other items.

    Potentially, the material could also get incorporated into building materials to make them waterproof.

    N.N. Sachitanand

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