RadTech, the nonprofit for ultraviolet, electron beam and light emitting diode (UV/EB/LED) technologies, has announced the winners of its 2022 Sustainability Awards.

These awards recognize the sustainable advantages of UV/EB/LED technology for end users. The RadTech Sustainability Committee selected four winners, each in a dif-ferent sector of the UV/EB/LED market, and each offering a unique product and/or pro-cess sustainability advantage – demonstrating the wide application and many benefits of the technology. The awards will be presented at RadTech 2022, May 9-12, in Orlando.

Award Winners
• “Sharkskin” Surfaces (Airliner Performance) – MicroTau, Sydney, Australia
According to Australian advanced manufacturing company MicroTau, “nature has developed microscopic patterns on plants and animals that provide functional solutions. If you can print those patterns, you can recreate those valuable properties.” MicroTau has developed a new advanced manufacturing process – “Nature’s 3D printer” – to replicate microscopic sharkskin patterns at scale, enabled by UV technology.

Sharkskin patterns reduce aerodynamic drag to increase efficiency and performance. MicroTau grows these patterns out of UV curable coatings and has demonstrated performance in wind tunnel and flight testing. MicroTau is scaling up their manufacturing to deliver the technology to airliners and improve their sustainability. This has the potential to save commercial aviation and shipping more than $10 billion in fuel costs and as much as 100 million tons of carbon emissions (CO2) annually.

• Battery Terminals (Energy Storage Manufacturing) – Water Gremlin, White Bear Lake, MN
Water Gremlin manufactures battery terminals for a wide range of applications such as automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, recreational vehicles, marine, storage, military, etc. Battery terminals are an essential part of lead-acid batteries. The coating on a terminal is used to prevent leaking between the terminal and the plastic cover of the battery – allowing the battery to last longer, perform better, and function safely. The traditional coating on a terminal is a solid polymer which requires a large amount of solvent to aid in the application of the coating.

Water-based process were tried by Water Gremlin, but were found to not work for all situations, and required an unacceptable amount of solvent. Water Gremlin has implemented a solvent-free UV curable coating process that results in a significantly reduced environ-mental impact. In addition, these coated terminals are proving to be more durable and dependable than traditional coatings.

Water Gremlin intends to continue to develop UV cure technology to eventually end all usage of organic solvents for coating parts in their facility. Water Gremlin’s goal is to reduce the solvent usage by more than 50% by the end of 2022 and by more than 80% in 2024.

• Recyclable Granola Bags (Social Justice and Printing and Packaging) – Thistle and Bee, Memphis, TN, and GOpak Flexibles, Delafield, WI
Thistle and Bee is a nonprofit that helps women break the cycle of exploitation and poverty, offering hope and healing through a holistic residential and therapeutic clinical program and employment in their collective farm that produces and sells honey and products such as granola

GOpak, a flexible packaging company, began working with Thistle and Bee for the creation of flexible pouches for their granola products. The company had been using a rigid package with a paper label attached for their granola. They wanted to change to a package that looked as premium as the product inside. GOpak worked closely with Thistle & Bee’s designer to create a package for their small-batch granola that was functional, visually appealing, and reflected the values of the organization.

In addition to needing food-safe packaging, Thistle & Bee requested sustainable packaging and material that could be written on — something that would give their product an extra personal touch.

GOpak counseled the company on choosing a 100% recyclable material (for store take back program). Since GOpak surface prints and uses electron beam curing to protect the inks, a layer of material could be eliminated. The EB pouch process eliminates the need to laminate and offers the ability to reduce a layer of material for improved sustainability and accelerated com-posting.

• Special Academic Award: Fire Resistant Wood Coating – Thomas J. Kolibaba and Jaime C. Grunlan, Texas A&M University
Thomas Kolibaba’s work on fire resistant wood coatings was done during his time at Texas A&M as a PhD student and postdoc. The UV coating solution he developed reduces the flammability of wood in open flame testing and cone calorimetry testing. It also preserves the mechanical strength of wood at high temperatures. This performance comes with lower toxicity than commercially available halogenated flame retardants, which are being regulated out of the marketplace due to health and bioaccumulation concerns. 

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