The future global impact of smart nanocoatings




Driven by rapid urbanisation, infrastructure development and recovery of the global housing market, the demand for industrial protective coatings is increasing. These coatings have applications in various industries, including infrastructure and construction, oil and gas, automotive, aerospace, marine, and electronics. In recent years, manufacturers and vendors have started moving towards eco-friendly water-borne coatings and new technologies that could decrease coating deposition time and volume, and reduce costs and environmental impact. However, the introduction of novel coating technologies and sustainable practices remains one of the key market challenges. Increasingly protective coatings are desired to be functional as well as decorative and exhibit additional properties. The emerging innovation trends focus on the development and introduction of multifunctional smart coatings and nanocoatings. Nanocoatings are regarded as the most promising high-performance new coating type for construction applications. Compared to conventional coatings, they are more cost-effective, energy-efficient, easy-to-apply, and environmentally friendly.



A coating is an additional layer applied to the surface of an object for decorative and/or functional purposes. The most industrially-relevant types of coatings are protective coatings (Table 1), which are applied to products to protect their surfaces from a wide range of external conditions. These coatings can be applied as gases, liquids, and solids. Currently available deposition technologies focus on liquid coatings (solvent- and water-borne), powder coatings, pre-treatment coatings, and electrocoatings. A variety of different coating products are available on the market.

Table 1. Protective coating technologies overview.

A specific coating’s formulation is a combination of four main ingredients: solvent, resin, pigment, and additives that provide additional functionality (Table 2).


Table 2. Protective coating products formulation.

The exact composition, especially the resin type, defines the protective properties of a coating (Table 3).

Table 3. Protective coating product properties by the resin type.

Based on Technavio’s research report Global Protective Coatings Market 2016-2020, the largest industrial applications and end-users (Table 4) of protective coatings by revenue include:

  1. Infrastructure and construction (general finish, wood and coil) – 40.2%

  2. Oil and gas (general finish and coil) – 33.8%

  3. Automotive (Original Equipment Manufacturing, OEM and refinish) – 12.2%

  4. Aerospace – 7.0%

  5. Marine – 4.0%

  6. Electronics – 2.5%

  7. Other – 0.3%

Coatings for the infrastructure and construction sector must possess increased structural durability to endure harsh weather conditions. In the oil and gas industry, coatings with high performance and longevity are required to protect outdoor infrastructure, such as pipelines. In the automotive and aerospace industries, multiple coating layers, including basecoats, electrocoats, clearcoats, primers, and topcoats, enhance the appearance of a vehicle and protect its parts from various environmental conditions. In the marine industry, coatings are used to protect ships from fouling and corrosion. In the electronics industry, water- and shock-resistant coatings are used to protect circuit components.

Table 4. Key end-user industry sectors using protective coatings.

Key market drivers and highlights

The protective coatings market has seen continuous revenue growth and innovation in recent years, with vendors focusing on introducing eco-friendly products and novel functional coatings. Technavio’s research report Global Industrial Coatings Market 2016-2020, projected that between 2016-2020, the global coatings market will grow from $74.12 billion to $98.27 billion at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.8%.
The global coatings market is dominated by liquid coatings, which had a combined market share of 72.91% in 2015. Water-borne coatings had the single largest market share in this category (approximately 40% of the total) and are the fastest-growing coating type. The advantages of water-borne coatings include:

  • low volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emission levels

  • ease-of-application and cleaning with water

  • efficient drying

  • elastic and flexible finish

  • stable durable colour

  • good heat-, abrasion- and cracking-resistance


Strict regulations on VOCs emissions—especially in North America and Western Europe—and increasing consumer environmental awareness and preference for water-borne coatings in Asia-Pacific economies (APAC) are the primary factors driving the market growth of these coatings.
Rapid urbanisation, infrastructure development, and the recovery of the global housing market are have increased the level of demand for construction paints and coatings. According to United Nation’s World Urbanization Prospects 2014-2050 Revision, the global urban population is expected to increase by 56% by 2020, and in the same year, the global construction market will reach $12 trillion. According to Oxford Economics' Outlook Capital project and infrastructure spending, global infrastructure spending is projected to reach $6 trillion by 2020. The infrastructure and construction industry is the largest end-user of protective coatings and its growth is driving the coatings market. APAC economies made up the largest share of the global industrial coatings market (55.29%) in 2015, and are also is expected to be the fastest-growing region (with a CAGR of 6.11%) due to rapid industrialisation and the demand for industrial coatings in the expanding automotive industry. 

China is the largest producer and consumer of paints and coatings in the world with a share of 24%, followed by India with an 8% share. The ten biggest players in the global coatings market by share of the market’s revenue are:

  1. PPG Industries (17%)

  2. AkzoNobel (14%)

  3. Sherwin-Williams (9%)

  4. Axalta Coating Systems (4%)

  5. BASF (4%

  6. Valspar (3%)

  7. RPM International (3%)

  8. Nippon Paint (2%)

  9. Kansai Paint (2%)

  10. Jotun (1%)

Key issues and opportunity for innovation for protective coatings

The key market challenges for protective coatings include a high levels of competition and market fragmentation, the passage of strict environmental regulation, and the introduction of novel coating technologies. The global industrial coatings market is influenced by increasing demand for:

  • local vendors offering cheaper products and support services

  • durable multifunctional coatings and do-it-yourself (DIY) services in the construction and infrastructure sector

  • water-borne plastics-specific and refinish coatings for fuel-efficient automobiles

  • novel coating technologies that support sustainable practices

The competition in the market is high, leading local vendors to offer lower prices to end-users, while the largest international players focus on waging price wars against each other. Due to the rapid growth in infrastructure and construction sectors, decorative coatings are also desired to provide functional benefits, such as protecting against harsh weather conditions, dampness, corrosion, fungal growth, and other destructive influences that impact buildings. This also leads to an increasing need for more resistant coatings incorporating protective properties. An increase in demand from DIY consumers for easy-to-coat water-borne paints is anticipated, particularly among younger demographics in Western economies. There is an increasing interest and R&D investment (e.g., A&I Coatings) focusing on the introduction of coatings for commercial construction applications, such as facades. Commercial coatings must possess durability, superior mechanical properties, and weather-resistance. Fluoropolymer topcoats offer a promising solution, exhibiting high-performance and a longer lifetime (15-30 years) compared to conventional polyurethane coatings (5-10 years).
Many countries are enacting new environmental regulations to improve vehicle efficiency and to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions of vehicles. To improve fuel economy, automakers are developing lightweight automobiles with plastic components, which has increased the demand for automotive coatings for plastics. These types of coatings must meet specific performance criteria, such as:

  • unique composition matching the rest of the vehicle

  • durability

  • adequate flow and levelling

  • aesthetic colour effects

  • good adhesion

  • low baking temperature


R&D expenditure on automotive refinish coatings technology is also on the rise. For example, PPG and BASF are currently focusing on the development of efficient refinish coatings to reduce cycle time in automotive body shops, and to reduce operational costs. AkzoNobel is focusing on the development of smart, self-healing refinish coatings. Another R&D focus is the development of UV-curable coatings for the automotive industry, benefiting from high performance and faster assembly line. These include clearcoats offering scratch- and mar-resistance (PPG Industries). The UV-curable OEM coatings are projected to experience faster growth than powder coatings, which face challenges including difficulties in obtaining thin films, colour changes, metallic finish appearances, and coating touch-up.
New processes designed to enhance coating efficiency and decrease the amount of coating used during application have been introduced to the market. For example, specially-designed spray guns with high-volume-low-pressure and low-volume-low-pressure characteristics are being adopted to reduce the amount of paint wasted during application. In addition, due to the increasing interest in green and sustainable manufacturing practices, increased recycling of coatings and the production of solvent-free coatings can be anticipated. These practices could also minimise the industry’s dependence on fluctuating raw material prices. Due to strict environmental regulations, manufacturers and vendors are also moving towards eco-friendly technologies and water-borne coatings, ensuring sustainable development, operational efficiency, and reduced energy consumption.

Emerging innovation trends: Multifunctional smart coatings and nanocoatings

The most promising emerging innovations in the coatings industry centers around the development and introduction of novel multifunctional smart coatings and nanocoatings. The most significant characteristics of these coatings include:

  • multifunctionality for specialized applications

  • bioinspired and smart stimuli-driven responsiveness

  • inorganic-based and nanoparticle-based composition

These coating products, although currently a niche in the global market, offer very powerful tools and promising solutions for the coating industry. There is increasing demand for protective coatings to provide not only functional benefits, but also exhibit decorative and other properties. In the infrastructure and construction industry, novel speciality finishes and multifunctional coatings are sought after for residential applications, such as DIY and upcycling projects, and commercial applications, such as architectural construction.
In addition, novel “bioinspired” multifunctional coatings incorporate properties and functions inspired by various smart and stimuli-responsive materials found in nature. These include superhydrophobic (self-cleaning, anti-icing, anti-fouling and anti-corrosion coatings), superhydrophilic (for water purification), and self-healing coatings. Other examples include colour-changing coatings such as hydrochromic (water contact-driven colour change), thermochromic (temperature change-driven), photochromic (light-driven), electrochromic (applied voltage-driven) as well as luminescent (e.g. glow-in-the-dark) coatings, and coatings offering special optical effects (e.g. iridescence or opalescence). In the automotive and aerospace industries, reflective and IRR (infrared reflective) pigment technologies might offer increased efficiency by reducing heat absorption and premature degradation.
The formulation of smart multifunctional coating products is expected to be based on inorganic resins and pigments, such as engineered polysiloxanes, polysilazanes, and nanoparticles. Polysiloxanes possess an inorganic backbone of silicon-oxygen unlike all the current carbon-based resins. They can be cured at room temperatures and mimic ceramic-like coatings. This type of coating also possess high levels of durability, as well as heat-, acid-, corrosion-, and weathering-resistance. One example of an emerging product based on new self-cleaning polysilazane-based coatings is CeramiClear (PPG Industries), a two-component clearcoat which provides superior scratch, etch, and mar-resistance. Nanocoatings, incorporating nano-sized particles, are regarded as the most promising high-performance materials for construction applications. They are more cost-effective, energy-efficient, easy-to-apply, and environmentally-friendly compared to conventional coatings. Based on Technavio’s research report Global Industrial Coatings Market 2016-2020, the nanocoatings market is estimated to grow from $2.89 to $8.93 billion between 2016-2020 at a CAGR of 25.31%. Increasing research activity, emerging new types of coatings, and expanding applications across various industry segments suggest that the market for smart coatings and nanocoatings will continue to grow in the future.


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