Dow Chemical Co. says the former Rohm & Haas labs in the Philadelphia area developed a house-paint ingredient that will substantially cut the paint industry's water and energy consumption while allowing homeowners to cover walls more evenly and hide stains.
That ingredient, branded as Evoque, was honored Wednesday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as one of the nation's new "greener chemicals." The government and the company say it will lead to lessened need for an energy-hungry pigment in white, pastel, and mid-tone paints.
Dave Fasano, the "godfather" of the project inside Rohm & Haas and then Dow, called Evoque one of the bigger advances in acrylic latex paints since the 1950s. Dow acquired Rohm & Haas in 2009 and employs about 2,000 in this region.
Invented in Spring House, Montgomery County, and first commercialized in early 2012, the paint ingredient is manufactured at Dow's Bristol plant in Bucks County and several other locations.
Globally, homeowners, business owners, and others coat dwellings with three billion gallons of paint a year - a giant market.
A winner of the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award, Evoque, the EPA literature says, will reduce the carbon footprint in the manufacturing of exterior latex paint by 22 percent, harmful emissions by 24 percent, and water consumption by 30 percent. It also may lead to fewer algae blooms because it's more environmentally friendly.
"While this is good news for the environment, it's also great news for the consumer," the agency added. "This new technology will make the paint more effective at reducing the bleed-through of old paint colors or rust."
On Thursday, Fasano, application scientist in Dow's coating materials division, said: "This is an example of how it takes a village. There has been a large number of people who have worked on the project."
The idea for Evoque, he said, "flowed organically out of the lab."
For about 30 years, paint researchers have known that the white pigment titanium dioxide clumps in paint formulations, requiring two or three coats to cover marks on walls. Dow researchers altered the molecular structure of a latex binder, another paint ingredient, so titanium dioxide would be more evenly distributed in the paint when it was brushed or rolled on a wall.
Titanium dioxide is one of the most energy-intensive materials in a paint can, experts say. Dow says Evoque will reduce the amount of titanium dioxide in a gallon of house paint by about 15 percent.
Pat Gottschalk, business president of Dow Coating Materials and Performance Monomers, said that Evoque is mostly available in higher-end paints, and that sales are expected to double over the next year. The sales level was not disclosed. Evoque is being sold worldwide.
"It's one of the best commercial adoptions we've ever had," Gottschalk said.
In October, DuPont Co. said it would spin off its titanium dioxide business, along with its other traditional chemical businesses, into a separate publicly traded company with about $7 billion in revenue.
Gottschalk, the Dow executive, said DuPont might not be "too happy" with Evoque because it reduces the need for titanium dioxide. But he doesn't see Evoque as a major drag on DuPont because house paint is a small part of the titanium dioxide market.
The DuPont spin-off is not expected for 18 months and will leave that company with energy, security, and seed products.