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Currently US Navy facilities alone have constructions in coastal zones with over 5.5 Million square feet of surface that is exposed to tidal immersion and/or wave splashing. The replacement value of these assets is $8.3 billion. It has been reported that at least 50% of this area is steel constructions, such as bulkheads (sheet pole), pipe poles, H-piles, cranes onshore/offshore, petrochemical structures, bridges, water and wastewater structures, industrial facilities, mooring structures, and marine equipment which, if left unprotected, are subject to severe oxidative and electrochemical corrosion under the influence of the saline seawater and changing weather conditions.
Protecting these assets from corrosion is a major and very costly issue for the US Navy. Currently, the Navy uses one of two specified coating system options for the initial painting of steel placed in seawater immersion/splash zones. Each system is expected to provide approximately five years splash zone service before complete removal and reapplication is required, but in many cases shorter lives are experienced. Commercially available, in-service- applied, splash zone maintenance coatings providing up to three years of service prior to reapplication are available, but the repair service is rather costly.
The development of a material that would extend the lifecycle of the coating to seven or more years between re-applications would realize significant annual savings in US Navy funds that are currently being spent on the maintenance of the steel installations in the immersion/splash zones or to replace structures that were not adequately protected. Such coatings will also be extremely useful, not only to the Navy and other branches of the military, but also to civilian government and non-government organizations that have significant assets in such service, such as port authorities, marina owners, ship builders, pier maintenance organizations, docking and shipping installations, and other similar enterprises.
In order to satisfactorily fulfill such functions, the newly developed coating should be: " extremely hydrophobic and stable to environmental attack in various climatic conditions, " sufficiently flexible to tolerate thermal expansion and contraction of the underlying structures due to the daily and seasonal temperature fluctuations, and " mechanically robust, in order to tolerate the constant action of waves with and without suspended sand, air particulates (sand storms), as well as wear and tear caused by human activities, including countering such powerful effects as abrasion caused by mooring of boats and ships.
No less important are the technological characteristics of the targeted coating. It must: " be applicable by spraying using conventional equipment now in commercial use, " have high sag resistance to provide sufficiently thick coatings after spraying one layer of resin, " reach the wash-out resistant state quickly, in order to allow coating application to be completed at low tide, and to be fully resistant to the next incoming tide,
" act as a sealant, i.e. have the capacity to fill the gaps in the coated constructions without losing integrity or cracking of the coating, " have sufficient edge retention properties, and " be environmentally compliant, i.e. 100% solids, free of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's), Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAP's) and toxic metals.
All of these requirements were laid out in a US Navy request for proposals for a Small Business Innovation Research grant (SBIR) to develop such a material. Based on acceptance of its research proposal, and the awarding of an SBIR Phase l grant by the Navy, POLYMERight Inc. has developed and demonstrated at the laboratory level, the feasibility of a novel polymeric coating for this service.
In addition to meeting the Navy's development requirements for the coating, POLYMERight has worked with commercial installers of such coatings to understand the properties needed to allow easy handling in currently used application equipment and to produce usable coatings of requisite thickness in one coating pass. This has led to an endorsement of the new product and an enthusiastic offer of cooperation by the Jeffcoat Co. for the expected first field installation and performance trials. Jeffcoat is a highly experienced and well regarded installer and maintainer of such coatings for the Navy.
In the light of those results, the Navy has now followed up with a Phase II grant to partially fund a commercial scale field test of the new material. Since the amount of Navy Phase II funding allocated to the project is limited, POLYMERight is also seeking added support for this work from the companies whose materials would be used in making the coatings. Additional funding or support in kind is needed to complete the field trials and finalization and adoption of this product. Field testing it at one or more Navy installations would be ideal, and is anticipated.
The POLYMERight technology used is very environmentally friendly, easily transferable into commercial production, and we are already in contact with a group of highly qualified, reputable, US specialty chemicals companies, which can accomplish the full-scale production of necessary materials within a very short period of time. These specialty chemicals companies will either serve as toll manufacturers for POLYMERight, or act as manufacturing and marketing partners in the commercial scale production. The key raw materials used and the manufacturing all involve US production and jobs.
The development of the novel polymeric oligomers used in the coating's commercial manufacture opens the door to a family of different but related applications in which the adhesion, sealing, coating and molding properties and the high flexibility and chemical and oil resistance imparted by the oligomer can be of significant advantage. Successful conclusion of this project will then lead to significant additional benefits.