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Intertec launches nanotechnology antistatic coating

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

The field equipment protection specialist Intertec has launched a revolutionary advance in antistatic surface coating treatment for its glassfibre reinforced polyester (GRP) outdoor enclosures.

Developed for Intertec by BÜFA, the new nanotechnology-based coating also boosts protection against damage from ultraviolet radiation - helping to achieve extended maintenance-free lifecycles of field-based control and instrumentation equipment.

Dubbed GO-Antistatic, the new treatment is based on an advanced carbon nanotube material that is applied as part of a surface gelcoat. Polyester gelcoats are widely used to add glossy and highly durable surface finishes to the exterior of GRP enclosures. The advanced nanomaterial provides a degree of conductivity for the outdoor enclosure that dissipates any static electric charges safely to ground - to protect against sparking. Such treatments ensure safety in hazardous areas of processing plants, where a spark caused by the build up of an electrostatic charge can cause an explosion of gas, vapour or dust in the local atmosphere.

Gelcoats are a premium form of protection, and form a chemical bond on the surface of the GRP. Most of the antistatic treatments applied to GRP enclosures today rely on the addition of conductive materials into the surface gelcoat (or conductive paint) by employing carbon/graphite, tin or other metals. However, if the gelcoat contains antistatic material, this can have a detrimental effect on its performance, notably in terms of reducing its smoothness and ultraviolet protection, and limiting the colouring possibilities. Extended exposure to high UV levels can then damage GRP enclosures, leading to minor surface roughening - which is sometimes referred to as chalking or frosting.

Intertec and BÜFA worked together to develop the new antistatic coating. BÜFA chose single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) to provide the required conductivity and has developed proprietary techniques to disperse the SWCNTs in the coating material. This approach provides numerous benefits largely because SWCNTs are incredibly small - around 1-2 nanometres in diameter - which increases smoothness at the surface level of the coating. The gloss retention (smoothness) after accelerated weathering tests is about 50% better than the previous formulation, and is on the same level as non-antistatic gelcoats. This significantly improves UV resistance, and additionally virtually eliminates any effect on the use of any decorative colourings.

This latter advantage means that Intertec can also now provide hazardous area enclosures in a much broader range of colours than was previously possible. Options will include almost pure white for example - which will further aid solar protection - something that is very difficult or impossible to achieve with many current antistatic treatments. Intertec can also now provide enclosures in colours that match a client's corporate branding for instance, or help with other desirable attributes such as camouflage or blending with architecture.

As part of the development process Intertec provided BÜFA with feedback on application and curing processes. Intertec also subjected example enclosures treated with GO-Antistatic to weathering tests using the resources of an advanced environmental chamber that is normally employed for testing new automobile designs.

"Our core business is providing advanced enclosures to ensure the long-term protection of sensitive field equipment, and the new antistatic treatment represents a significant step forward in enhancing performance," said Intertec's CEO Martin Hess. "The development could not have come at a better moment - as today many of our EPC and processing operator customers are trying to build plants in ever more remote and harsh environments."

"This surface protection treatment greatly boosts the long term performance of an important and popular form of coating for industrial applications," added Krzysztof Bargiel, Product Development director of BÜFA. "It additionally enhances other qualities of the surface coating including application and colour tinting - which we believe will be a breakthrough advantage for the outdoor enclosure industry."

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