Transportation is one of the fastest growing contributors to climate change, accounting for a quarter of all carbon dioxide emissions. Whilst rail transport generates nowhere near as much CO2 as road and air, it is still a significant contributor and in recent years we have seen a greater effort to lower the industries' impact on the environment. And we are now seeing the green credentials of rail increasingly publicised for both passenger and freight customers alike, and a wider focus on all aspects of the process taken into consideration. For example, vehicle manufacturers are increasingly using lightweight construction concepts to reduce fuel consumption and emissions.
This wide-ranging assessment of the industry’s footprint has now extended into the coatings and paint used on the trains themselves. Whilst lead compounds are no longer used in decorative paints and automotive paints, it can still be found in specialised industrial paints. Not only are there health challenges with some traditional paints (i.e. lead) but many pigments, dyes, solvents, oil-based paints, plastic paints, and paint additives are manufactured from petrochemicals. Petrochemical extraction, manufacture and transport generates a significant carbon footprint. But now, an innovative co-operation in Europe is bringing the industry a greener way to paint your train.
Rail is now working alongside another industry – bio-based. You may be unfamiliar with the term – it refers to sustainable alternatives to petroleum based processes and products which are usually made from plant-based products, and/or renewable materials. And now, the Polish rolling stock manufacturer Newag have started using bio-based coatings on two diesel locomotives, thanks to a partnership between one of the world's largest polymer companies Covestro alongside the coating supplier, Lankwitzer Lackfabrik. Together they have delivered a bio-based resin which is more effective than current coatings in the industry. Its properties mean that it is just as hard and resistant to weathering, scratching and chemicals. Plus it has a far smaller carbon footprint.
“The coating formulated with this product performs just as well as a conventional coating systems, but uses primarily renewable resources,” says Julia Hellenbach, marketing expert for the transportation sector at Covestro’s Coatings, Adhesives, Specialties business unit. “Seventy percent of the carbon in this polyurethane raw material comes from biomass.” The abrasion resistance and gloss stability of the coating were even 70 percent higher compared with standard coatings, as the partners demonstrated with the Amtec Kistler car wash test. Next they are planning a joint long-term weathering test.
Covestro’s pentamethylene diisocyanate-based material was first developed in 2015 although they have been developing polyisocyanates since the 1940s. Today their comprehensive range of Desmodur polyisocyanates for solventborne and high solids polyurethane (PU) coatings, adhesives and sealants offers tremendous formulating freedom.
In fact, polyurethane coatings based on are used to protect many products we rely on every day such as:
- Cars, trucks and buses
- Appliances and electronics
- Wood furniture and cabinetry
- Interior and exterior walls, floors, window frames and more
- Bridges and other infrastructure
- Marine vessels
- Food packaging
Newag believes that this new product will fulfil their customers’ specifications. Mateusz Fedko, project manager at Newag said: “If the coating offers added value on top of that, as is the case here with the renewable raw materials, it gives us a very good opportunity to set ourselves apart from the competition.” But, the bio-based clearcoat is proven to fulfil the specific requirements of the railway vehicle industry, of course. For example, it displays very good resistance to cleaning agents, particularly those used to remove graffiti.
Given the results so far, Michael Voxbrunner of Lankwitzer Lackfabrik is optimistic about future developments: “I am certain this bio-based clearcoat will also create value for our customers in other industries.”
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