Recent EU legislation has put a limit on the use of volatile organic compounds such as those found in conventional varnishes. However, current water-based wood coatings take longer to dry, have a less attractive finish and do not protect wood effectively in comparison to solvent-based coatings. The EU-funded 'Development of a wearable, functional, regulation-compliant water-borne wood coating' (ECOVARN) project was established to address this perceived need in the furniture industry. Its approach was to research new compounds, test them and scale the best ones up to industrial production levels. Three different families of polymers were investigated. The polymers were all synthesised from plant sources to reduce the environmental impact of the final product. Project researchers found ways to attach various functional chemical groups, such as acrylates and fluoro-polymers, to the polymer backbone structure to improve the coating's physical properties. The production methods for the most promising coatings were then successfully tested at industrial scale, and they showed good physical and mechanical properties. Overall, ECOVARN produced and patented several new coatings that can compete with conventional varnishes. A market strategy and economic analysis was completed, and products will be commercially available within the next few years.
Wood coating, water-based, polymer, furniture, varnish