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CSIRO and Du Pont driving automotive paints into the next century

The Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Mr John Moore, has approved a contract between CSIRO and US chemical giant Du Pont which renews a major strategic research partnership into the 21st century.

Under the contract researchers from the CSIRO's Division of Molecular Science will work with US chemical giant Du Pont to pioneer a new range of automotive paints that are cleaner, 'greener' and more durable than today's car paints.

"Contracts such as this are vital in a strategic sense to the future of Australia science and industrial development," Mr Moore said. "It reflects the world-class standard of our research and development (RD)."

Australian scientists have developed a world leading process in environmentally benign coatings for cars and trucks. This is driving a revolution in the $US5b-a-year global automotive paints industry.

The new generation of tailored resins developed by CSIRO and Du Pont uses a process which gives precision control over the molecular weight and structure of the coating, and significantly reduces the need for solvents.

"This makes paint production and application healthier and much more environmentally benign," Mr Moore said.

The latest generation of coatings represent a breakthrough in ways of achieving control over the polymerisation process. (Polymerisation is the combining of several simpler molecules into a more complex molecule.)

One of the advantages of this controlled chemistry for industrial applications is that it can be performed with existing plants and equipment. All that is needed is the addition of a relatively small amount of low-cost reagent to the standard polymerisation mixtures.

The new process allows unprecedented control over the molecular weight distribution within the coating.

"You can tailor it to your end-use, that's the key to the whole thing. It is world-class leading-edge science, and it's the result of a true collaboration between scientists from CSIRO and Du Pont," Mr Moore said.

Du Pont currently holds about a one fifth share of the global market in automotive coatings, and expects that the revolutionary new paints will become available to the car industry early in the coming decade.

Another advantage of the chemistry is its versatility. It can be applied to the production of a host of other commercial products including adhesives, dispersants, compatibilizing agents and elastomers. Du Pont is pursuing development of improved products in these areas through its other business groups.

Contacts:

Dr Ezio Rizzardo, CSIRO, 03 9545 2500

Mr Leo Hyde, Du Pont Australia, 02 9757 5121

Louise McMahon, Du Pont Australia, 02 9923 6030

Norma Rainey, Mr Moore's Office, 02 6277 7580