Test tubes

interview with kong chin chew

Kong Chin "KC" Chew works for Evonik Coating Additives in the Smart Surface Solutions (S3) competence center, based in Singapore. He has worked in the chemical industry for 18 years, spending the past 10 years in coating formulation R&D. 

evonik has invested heavily in expanding its global r&d capabilities to deliver groundbreaking solutions. these efforts continued with the recent opening of a research hub in singapore. 

In 2018, Evonik opened the Asia research hub based in Singapore. This hub conducts R&D activities in the areas of functional surfaces, additive manufacturing, and what is commonly known as 3D printing. It is currently staffed with about 40 experienced scientists and researchers collaborating on groundbreaking developments. Within the hub, there is an S3 team – which is one of five within Evonik globally – working on different topics in the area of smart coatings. 

The smart surface solutions team develops commercially realistic solutions for the coatings industry. 

 The S3 concept is based on harnessing internal products and technologies as well as external resources – for example, universities, institutes, or start-up companies – to tackle specific issues within the coatings industry. These issues may have existed for a long time, but they have been difficult to solve, and there is a constant demand from the industry for better solutions.

For example in Singapore, we are currently focusing on developing solutions for exterior coatings (such as for walls and roofs) that are easy to clean. This is due to end-user demand for a clean, modern look with minimal maintenance. While easy-to-clean coatings are available, they have been lacking; there is a constant request for improvement – whether in performance or in the manufacturing process of the paint itself. Cost and performance balance is also a concern. Therefore, we need to develop commercially realistic solutions for our customers.

While within Evonik we have experts globally to go to for ideas and products, we also realize that there are many technologies outside that we should explore and possibly adopt into our solutions. Therefore, we are actively working with several institutes and start-up companies towards this end. As Singapore is the scientific hub for Asia, we are definitely in the right place to take advantage of the lively R&D and start-up environment and the opportunities that they can offer. 

the key attributes of smart coatings increase sustainability and functionality.

Smart coatings can have many functional attributes. For example, anti-fouling is a function that prevents or minimizes the adhesion of under-water organic organisms (such as barnacles or mussels) onto the coatings of ships, below the waterline. The presence of these organisms can cause extensive drag and substantially increase the ship’s fuel consumption.

Another example is anti-microbial, which is a topic familiar to the public. As the awareness of the importance of hygiene increases, we all hope that the surfaces that we come into contact with daily are free of germs. However, the public is likely unaware that the anti-microbial solutions available today contain biocides, which are highly regulated. These biocides may be harmful when they leech out into the environment. Therefore, at Evonik, we are looking for anti-microbial solutions that are biocide-free.

Ice-phobic coatings are in high demand. This topic is related to performance as well as safety, particularly in industries related to aerospace and maritime. On a ship crossing the Artic, for example, there can be severe ice build-up, which can increase the ship’s weight drastically and unevenly, causing it to keel to one side. When ice forms on the body of an airplane (for example on the wings or in the engine), it can affect the plane’s performance such as lift, drag, and thrust. The traditional solution of de-icing by heating or anti-icing via freezing point impression have various disadvantages. Therefore, a solution that is based on the coating itself is highly desirable.

a recent breakthrough in an environmentally friendly solution to prevent corrosion:

Anti-corrosion is a relatively broad topic, as it covers various industries such as oil and gas, construction, maritime, and automotive. But they all have one thing in common. That is, they are concerned with the corrosion of steel-based substrates. According to a report, the direct and indirect cost of corrosion globally is 2.5 trillion USD annually. It is hard to imagine such a figure. Anti-corrosion is therefore an ever-present topic in many coatings and materials companies.

Our S3 center in Germany recently developed an environmentally friendly solution based on the waterborne binder DYNASYLAN® SIVO 140 and the high solids silicone-epoxy hybrid resin SILIKOPON® EF. The combination of these systems is almost zero VOC and uses non-isocyanate technology. It has been recently introduced into the market.

We very much look forward to seeing more new products launched from our smart surface solutions centers in the future.