One technology now firmly established in the coating industry is the sol-gel method. This uses inorganic compounds, usually silicon compounds. Coatings manufactured by sol-gel technology have properties that differ from traditional, organic compound based coating systems. For example, they have excellent hardness, abrasion resistance, transparency, and resistance to chemicals.
By adding organic components, so-called hybrid layers can be generated that combine the properties of inorganic and organic layers. Example applications are hydrophobic (water repelling) anti-icing, and dirt-repelling layers and hydrophilic (water attracting) anti-fog layers that prevent water condensation on surfaces. In addition, layers can be generated that simultaneously have both oleophobic (oil repelling) and hydrophilic characteristics – so enabling oily contamination to be removed from such surfaces by pure water.
The coating specialists at Fraunhofer IFAM use sol-gel chemistry to develop hybrid-polymer layers, namely layers containing both inorganic and organic components. They use the sol-gel process to create layers on glass, metal, or plastic substrates using a variety of application techniques, for example immersion and spraying. In addition, they design guide formulations and develop application and curing methods for these layers. The work is always geared to meeting specific coating requirements for industrial applications.