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A Time for (Retro)reflection

Posted on Thursday, May 12, 2022

Insight into the Industry’s First Commercial Retroreflective Powder Coating

Anyone who has driven at night has probably noticed the glowing eyes of a deer in their headlights at some point in their travels. This eyeshine effect is due to an extra iridescent layer in the eyes of many nocturnal animals that acts as a retroreflector.

This biological phenomenon is the inspiration behind the development of retroreflective materials that redirect maximum light back to the observer.

Pavement markings, signage, and safety vests infused with glass beads or prism-shaped particles have been standard on roadways and construction sites for decades to enhance visibility and safety.

Until now, these retroreflective options were mostly available only through liquid-based paints, fabrics, and tapes. PPG’s new patent-pending innovation breaks that mold by making the safety advantages of retroreflection available in a powder coating.

PPG ENVIROCRONTM LUM retroreflective powder is ideal for use on bicycles, scooters, guardrails, poles, fencing, safety equipment, tools and more.

Shining a Light on Retroreflection
As daylight diminishes, risks of roadway accidents climb, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists. In fact, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, the risk of fatalities is up to three times higher after dusk than during daylight hours.

While there are numerous contributing factors to nighttime safety dangers, including fatigue and impaired drivers, limited visibility tops the list.

Darkness diminishes depth perception and peripheral vision, while glare from oncoming headlights can cause temporary blindness and visibility drops to about 500 feet even with high beams, giving drivers less time to detect—and react to—upcoming hazards.

Retroreflective coatings like PPG Envirocron LUM are designed to help reduce these types of dangers. The coating’s retroreflective properties stem from the reflective glass beads that are embedded in the surface of the low-matte finish powder.

Unlike reflective materials that reflect light in a scattered pattern like a mirror, retroreflective surfaces return light in a more direct, focused pattern that heightens illumination.

These glass beads redirect maximum light back to the source through the retroreflection process. The incoming light beam bends as it passes through the glass bead before reflecting off a mirrored surface behind the bead. The light beam then bends once more before returning to the source.

Take roadway pavement markings for example. Light rays from headlights enter the glass beads embedded at the surface of yellow lane dividers, before being retroreflected back to the driver to enhance visibility.

“Visibility, whether on-road or in off-road settings with limited light, is essential for safety and productivity,” said Paul Bradley, PPG technical manager. “PPG has been at the forefront of retroreflective powder coating technology for several years as part of our commitment to innovation and sustainability. Envirocron LUM is the latest outcome of those efforts.”

Powder Coating Perks
Demand for powder coatings continue to surge due to their strong, durable finish and the fact that they’re specifically formulated without solvents. The technology helps companies meet requirements to reduce volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions in many countries around the world.

This type of innovation gives manufacturers the opportunity to leverage not just the safety advantages of retroreflection, but the application and performance benefits of powder. Retroreflective powder coatings like Envirocron LUM provide increased resistance to corrosion, chipping and abrasion, as well as a high-transfer efficiency for reduced overspray.

In the case of bicycles, the primary benefit of retroreflective powder coatings is that it reflects car headlights to keep cyclists safer on the roadways. But bicycles are also subject to plenty of wear and tear—especially public bike share programs that get heavy use—making resistance to weathering, chipping and abrasion even more important.

PPG’s comprehensive family of Envirocron powder coatings produce a durable, uniform finish that combines great aesthetics with exceptional protection performance. They are specifically formulated without VOCs, making them the first choice of many OEMs, manufacturers and applicators.

Envirocron LUM, a sustainably advantaged product, is part of PPG’s corporate commitment to sustainable solutions and reinforces PPG’s standing as the industry leader in powder coatings innovations. According to PPG’s 2020 Sustainability Report, 35% of sales come from sustainably advantaged products and processes and represent a 42% reduction in quantity of waste disposed from a 2017 baseline.

From its ability to enhance nighttime visibility and sustainable properties to its exceptional protection performance and durability, PPG Envirocron LUM is one of the brightest new advancements in powder technology today.

For more information about Envirocron LUM, visit or call 1-800-258-6398.