Can graphene-based materials beat rust? Our new partner, Barpimo, based in Spain, have joined the Graphene Flagship consortium to combine their efforts with ours in the global fight against corrosion. We spoke with one of their experts, Miguel Ángel Tobías-Caro, as he investigates how graphene can enable a new generation of anti-corrosion coatings.
According to the World Corrosion Organization, industrialized countries spend approximately 4% of their annual GDP to fight rust. Graphene could be the solution to this costly conundrum, as it can slow corrosion when mixed with coating materials. This is the ultimate goal of the new Graphene Flagship partner, Barpimo – the newest addition to the Graphene Flagship's Functional Foams and Coatings Work Package. Their research will focus on the development of novel graphene-enabled anti-corrosion paints that exploit the properties of graphene to better resist corrosion and reduce manufacturing costs.
As Barpimo's Technical Director, Tobías-Caro has spent almost 20 years developing paints for wood and metal, as well as for decorative applications, and he has always been curious to explore the possibilities of new materials like graphene. He tells us about his motivation to join the Graphene Flagship, and reveals his market predictions for new graphene-based anti-corrosion paints.
The EU-funded Graphene Flagship project fosters a collaborative environment across different European stakeholders. Barpimo aims to manufacture graphene-enabled paints, and this will begin with the development and tests of graphene-enriched composites by Graphene Flagship partners TU Dresden, Germany, the University of Cambridge, UK, and FORTH, Greece. Once the materials are optimised, industrial partners will scale-up production. The knowledge will be transferred from academia to industry: at Sixonia Tech GmbH, Germany, a start-up from TU Dresden, and at Barpimo.
What are Barpimo's strengths?
We have several years of experience in the formulation of paints and resins. We test and produce solvent-based and water-based paints for metal, wood and architectural surfaces. Our range of products is as extensive and diverse as our clients, who range from wood craftsmen to automotive factories. We are a multidisciplinary team, ready to develop specialised paints for many different surfaces.
In our laboratories, we can work with different scales, ranging from 1 kilogram tests to 24 tons. Our state of the art technologies allow us to test the vast majority of painting processes used by our customers.
Barpimo employs 200 workers, and we sell our products in 24 countries – not only in Europe, but also reaching South America and Africa. Being an SME, we can afford to give our clients a fast and personalised response, always trying to precisely tailor our offer to their needs.
Why did Barpimo decide to join the Graphene Flagship?
We believe the Graphene Flagship will be a game-changer in Europe, and thus it is a great opportunity for Barpimo to become a partner.
Our customers in the automotive industry are constantly producing new prototypes, with new requirements and aging tests. Hence, there is always a need for innovative solutions. Graphene is new, and different from the other conventional materials usually offered by suppliers.
We will combine our experience in conventional paintings with our testing possibilities, which will allow us to try new formulations on different surfaces, aging treatments, and much more.
What is your experience with graphene-based products?
We developed a graphene-enabled electrically conductive paint, in collaboration with Graphene Flagship partner Avanzare. It was our colleagues at Avanzare who encouraged us to join the Graphene Flagship, showing us that industry recognises the Graphene Flagship's key role in EU innovation and technology.
What do your customers think about your partnership in the Graphene Flagship?
Our customers have already shown their interest in this European initiative, and they are looking forward to seeing our progress. Our clients are really keen on testing future graphene-based products in their facilities. However, there is still a lot of work to be done before we reach that step.
How does graphene help tackle the corrosion problem?
Solutions to corrosion problems are always tailored to our customers' needs. For example, an automotive manufacturer will always seek the most efficient liquid paint with the best processing, application and curing times. Currently, the best anti-corrosion solutions come from water-based epoxy products, but UV-drying products are more innovative. These paints dry in just a few seconds after exposure to UV light, and are then ready to be used straightaway.
Civil structures, instead, have different needs. They usually require several layers of paint, and these can be solvent-based or water-based, depending on the customers' demands. We are committed to ecological and environmentally friendly solutions. We prefer to focus on water-based paints and UV-drying paints, ideally without using any solvents. In line with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, our work with the Graphene Flagship will focus on water-based paints and dispersions.
Where do you see the future of your partnership with the Graphene Flagship?
We believe that the greatest success will be the implementation of graphene-based prototypes in industrial production. This is where Barpimo can contribute its greatest expertise. Indeed, our direct contact with clients and our genuine interest in innovation are our best assets!