Conventional paint removal methods include chemical stripping with VOCs, blasting with plastic media, and delamination with high pressure water. These methods have many limitations, in that they are labor intensive, pose human health risks, are relatively expensive and pose significant waste disposal problems. However, polymeric coatings are known to contain structural components, such as ester, amide and urea linkages, that can be degraded biologically. We are working to develop a stable, enzyme-based, non-toxic paint stripping strategy that will be environmentally safe and cost effective.
The specific objectives are to identify and characterize microbial systems capable of degrading polymeric coatings, to develop a quantitative degradation assay and to optimize activity levels for subsequent purification and concentration of the biological products required for rapid degradation of coatings.
A water-dispersed colloid of an ester-based polyurethane polymer has been used in solid growth medium to screen about 100 different bacteria for microbial degradation activity. Those with demonstrable activity have been grown in the presence of epoxypolyamide paint- and polyester polyurethane paint-coated aluminum coupons. We have demonstrated delamination under certain conditions and have developed a spectrophotometric method for quantitating degradation activity as a function of dye release.