Publish Date: 30.08.2018

Category: News from the University

Doc. Dr. Sebastian Dahle is starting his Marie Skłodowska Curie fellowship at the University of Ljubljana. He is the very first Marie-Curie fellow who got this prestigious award to come to Ljubljana. His project PlasmaSolution is carried out at the Department of Wood Science and Technology at the Biotechnical Faculty, University of Ljubljana together with his mentor Prof. Dr. Marko Petrič. As project partners, Assoc. Prof. Janez Kovač at the Jožef Stefan Institute and the Italian company Certottica are closely participating with the University of Ljubljana to achieve the projects visionary goal.

For two years, the partners will work on a new technique to create better and achievable coatings. The innovation lies in the use of non-thermal plasmas like those that a plasma TV uses. Instead of generating light, however, this plasma is used to cure paints and lacquers. This is similar to conventional UV-cured coatings, which are quickly finished and exhibit excellent properties. However, the potential of the new plasma technique reaches far beyond: chemical reactions at the surface of the plasma paint are very different from those inside the paint. The specific design of the liquid formulation will allow tailoring the properties of the final coating. The base composition determines the main properties of the paint. Adding novel additives to the solution allows for improved adhesion, durability, and functionality. Further, optimizing the plasma especially enhances bond strength and flexibility towards the substrate, while also improving the sturdiness of the coating’s surface.

In summary, the scientists expect the plasma paint to do it all: prepare the substrate like a tie ground, cure the functional base paint, and create a hardened surface layer similar to a top coat.

These unique kind of gradient films are not possible to achieve by any other method, yet. Neither conventional UV paints nor plasma-deposition techniques could produce such a coating. On one hand, although UV coatings are widely used, they do not offer the possibility of continuously changing properties as such. On the other hand, plasma deposition always has been very elaborate and expensive, whereas the use of pigments, fillers, and functional additives was largely impossible.

The first step during the project is building suitable plasma devices. Dr. Dahle, who comes from from Clausthal University of Technology (Germany), uses his previous knowledge to bring the technology of dielectric barrier discharge (DBD) plasmas to the Biotechnical faculty. Many groups worldwide have advanced this technology over the last decades in order to replace conventional wood pretreatments. The new plasma devices allow the wood scientists in Ljubljana to enter this additional field of materials engineering.

The participating scientists at the Jožef Stefan institute contribute with their diagnostic and analytical equipment. Together, the group will use the new devices to optimize the plasma coatings and to tailor the corresponding solutions. The studies start by creating simple coatings without fillers or pigments, but will quickly include those as well as functional additives.

The Italian partner Certottica will test the optimized coatings and evaluate their potential towards a variety of applications. The expertise at the company will very much help to make the innovation ready for their industrial use. Further, the whole project will benefit from the company’s vast experiences with materials engineering, also including classic plasma deposition techniques.