13. Description of the core message of your event and key topics to be covered (c.100 words):
The aim of this workshop is to highlight to young aspiring scientists that coatings research is an exciting, highly scientific and complicated area of research that requires highly skilled scientists to discover solutions to some very challenging ‘real-life’ problems. The focus would be to help young scientists realise that studying science can lead to an exciting research career where their qualifications would be put to practical use and their scientific ability stretched, and that coatings science research needs top scientific minds to address the future challenges.
In the performance coatings field, coatings are often made up of two or three tins of ‘paint’ (Resin, curing agent and catalysts) which are then mixed on site and applied within a short time period before the whole system sets solid, with the aim of coating the structure (e.g. ship, oilrig or skyscraper) in one single continuous, enormous molecule! The reactive chemistry involved in this process is often highly complex and is key to delivering a high performance end product that can survive in some of the most aggressive environments on earth. Within this workshop we plan to carry-out a practical demonstration of this molecular ‘net-work formation’ using the audience members to show how molecules can combine to form a ‘molecular shield’.
After describing the complexity of the chemistry, I hope to exemplify this challenging area of science using a ‘case study’ that starts with the history of the ‘copper-bottomed vessel’ in the battle of Trafalgar giving the British a significant tactical/manoeuvrable advantage over the invading fleet. I then wish to discuss how this progressed to the use of copper and tin based ‘anti-fouling’ additives in ship paints to prevent barnacle growth (fouling) and then how this has evolved into the use of metal-free, environmentally friendly ‘non-stick’ coatings that barnacles simply fall off as the ship moves through the water (removed by hydrodynamic drag).
In addition to multiple specimens of marine fouling organisms (in jars) that can be circulated around the audience, I also hope to run an interactive session where the remarkable non-stick properties of these coatings are exemplified. My plan would be to have a ‘barnacle pushing’ session where barnacles that have been pre-stuck to coated metal panels (some with conventional marine coatings and some with specially designed ‘non-stick’ coatings) can be handled by the student who will be able to see firsthand how much easier it is to push a barnacle off these special ‘low surface energy/non-stick’ coatings. Other ideas include the pushing off of dried Weetabix (a common household problem on cereal bowls and also a polysaccharide residue not dissimilar to barnacle glue) and the setting up of an interactive miniature barnacle covered boat so the students can watch them feed using a magnifying glass as well as seeing a close up video of the feeding process.
This interactive session will be run by highly qualified and experienced scientists so the students should get an excellent insight into research and development in an industrial environment. I hope that this session will help the students appreciate that coatings technology and research is diverse, challenging and interesting and an excellent application of their scientific qualifications.