Tough Talk: Saving The Planet
Posted on Sunday, April 1, 2012
You’re probably thinking
this is going to be one of
those well-worn stories
about how powder coating technology
is good for the environment,
how it doesn’t use solvents
and doesn’t pollute our precious
atmosphere, and how it generates
virtually no hazardous wastes to
poison our ground or waterways.
No, today’s topic is much more serious than that.
Recently it has come to my attention that a rather
large asteroid may crash into our planet. It’s no joke.
The asteroid, Apophis (named after the ancient
Egyptian spirit of evil and destruction), passes by the
earth every seven years. In 2029, this near earth
object (NEO) may encounter a gravitational keyhole as
it hurtles past the earth. A terrestrial force such as
this could cause Apophis to shift its path such that the
next time around it could slam into the earth precisely
on April 13, 2036.
So what’s the big deal; a little asteroid banging into
the big ole planet earth? Well, this asteroid is approximately
270 meters in diameter, and NASA estimates
the energy from its impact would be roughly 510
megatons (over ten times the power of the largest
hydrogen bomb ever detonated).
Is it time to commence the construction of impact
resistant bunkers in our backyards? Not so quick,
because The Powder Coating Research Group has been
asked to team up with a crack team of astrophysicists
and aerospace scientists from Texas A&M University’s
Aerospace Engineering Department. The erudite technologists
at TAMU have devised a plan to mitigate the
potential of the havoc that this NEO could wreak.
Before I tender an exposition of their clever approach
let’s review some of the options for coaxing this planetary
object out of harm’s way.
The Russian Space Federation has proposed implementing
impulsive options such as discharging a
nuclear warhead either on, beneath or above the surface
of Apophis, thereby altering its path and avoiding
impact with the earth. Does anyone have a nuclear
device they could spare in a few years? The use of any
of these techniques elicits criticism as to what would
happen to the detritus created from such an explosion.
Would the fragments come crashing to the earth causing
dire consequences? Questions also arise as to how
an international consortium could secure and commandeer
a live nuclear device. Regardless, one of
these techniques would be considered if the potential
danger of impact was deemed imminent.
The experts at Texas A&M have explored the use of
a “slow push” mitigation technique. These include: a
gravitational tractor, pulsed laser, focused solar and
mass driver scenarios. Most interesting and relevant
to our fair technology is the creation of an albedo
from applying a dark absorptive powder coating to
one side of the asteroid and a white or reflective
powder to the opposing side. Coating one side black
and the other white would create a differential in
solar absorption as the celestial body rotates on its
axis. This photo-energy difference would cause
Apophis to shift its path a couple earth diameters
and save the home of the human race.
The Powder Coating Research Group has been
called upon to develop the technology to take to
space to accomplish this daunting task. We’re working
on a couple powder coatings that absorb solar
energy differently enough to push a speeding asteroid.
In addition, these products must be able to be
applied in space (a vacuum with no oxygen), melt
and form a continuous film and harden under the
prevailing ambient conditions on the asteroid surface.
No small feat.
Besides saving humanity from utter annihilation,
what are the benefits of all these far out efforts? We
see enormous potential for spin-off technology.
Collaborating on the development of advanced application
techniques to propel and apply under the rigorous
conditions in outer space will undoubtedly advance
our understanding of electrostatics and powder
handling characteristics. Formulating powder coatings
that can melt and form a film on an irregular,
porous surface will offer insight into coating rheology,
surface tension and substrate wetting properties.
Finding binder chemistry that can harden and
develop a coating durable enough to withstand erosion
and bombardment of solar winds may help us
produce tougher coatings.
So the next time you gaze skyward, rest
assured that powder coating technology has the
future of your grandchildren and the rest of
humanity in safe hands.
Kevin Biller is a contributing editor of Powder Coated Tough
magazine. He can be reached via email at