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Enabling Technology

Winner of the Imerys Sustainable Development Challenge 2008 for Innovation

BARRISURF™, a ground breaking new technology developed through transatlantic cooperation, is opening up new markets for Imerys.

 

"Its all about the tortuous path." DrDavid Gittins, Senior Scientist with Performance Minerals in the UK isn't talking about the time and effort it takes to develop a new mineral. He's explaining the secret behind BARRISURF™, an enabling technology that gives water-based coatings barrier properties. "With extremely platy particles, moisture or grease just can't find its way through."

In water-based coatings for packaging, minerals can replace materials such as fluorocarbons or wax, with very different benefits. The public perception of fluorocarbons is so negative that many environmentally-aware consumers shun products containing them. Moreover, packaging that contains minerals is much more suited to marketing with a natural focus.

 

Wax-coated board is very difficult to recycle. As a result, supermarkets have to send packaging waste containing wax to a landfill. Retailers are charged for landfill waste but receive money for recyclable paper.

 

Expertise across the board

Imerys teams on both sides of the Atlantic worked together to bring BARRISURF™ to the market (see box below).

 

Research began ten years ago with the discovery of rather large plates which were until now unknown in our operations. These hyperplates were evaluated in various applications at that time and inspired the first of many prototypes that lead to the introduction of BARRISURF™ HX. Many of these prototypes were tested in customer as well as our own labs. In 2007, the beta testing of the final product began and Imerys and at customer laboratories and pilot coating facilities. Enough material was made for customers to turn into packaging ready for printing and barrier testing in products like pet food bags.

 

In May 2008, BARRISURF™ was officially launched in the new technology showcase at Papercon, the paper industry show in Dallas (USA). "The concept was very well received," comments Dan Panfil, Kaolin Product Manager North America. "Several prospective customers in the audience requested samples and many others stopped by our booth to ask for technical guides."

 

For several years, Phil Jones, Director of Technical Marketing & New Ventures Pigments for Paper USA, has been working on promoting the use of nanometric kaolins. "With these kaolins, we have technologically advanced products with a wide range of possible applications within our grasp."

Imerys sells minerals to chemical suppliers, coatings formulators and paper mills. Converters transform reels of coated board into packaging for retailers or food brands. This long value chain is the reason why it takes time to turn innovation into revenue.

 

The Trickle Effect

The idea of the tortuous path as a barrier mechanism has been around for several years. Paper customers have a long and keen interest in using water-based barrier coatings. Teamwork between the Paper Application and Minerals Technology Labs in Sandersville (USA) with the Performance Minerals Labs in Cornwall (UK) was the key to identifying just how the technology worked. The focused effort by the Cornish Lab in identifying the scientific mechanisms accelerated the process.

Pigments for Paper Sales & Marketing in the USA provided the Cornwall and Sandersville technology teams with essential customer feedback so they could refine the pigment specifications and mineral processing.

What started as a trickle of enquiries on barrier pigments is growing rapidly as both Paper and Performance Minerals customers explore new and exciting possibilities offered by BARRISURF™.

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