Ludwigshafen, Germany - BASF started up a pilot facility for Steron, a novel coating process using polyurethane and silicon, at its Ludwigshafen plant on 30 Aug. The company said the technology is suitable for surface-coating many materials. To coat a carrier using Steron, an aqueous formulation of pigmented polyurethanes is first sprayed upon a silicon matrix, said the company. "Most of the water evaporates, leaving a gossamer-thin membrane with micro-fine pores." While still on the matrix, the membrane is adhered to the carrier. Finally, the finished product is lifted from the silicon matrix. This approach offers diverse finishes, "smooth or velvety, glossy or matte, a suede finish or a hint of elegant embossing," said BASF, adding that the high-quality surface finish "can be produced cost-effectively, even in small amounts."Fine pores in the coating ensure breathability, giving a robust yet comfortable surface. This breathable quality is valuable on surfaces such as car seats or tennis racket grips. Since Steron, developed by inventor Philipp Schaefer, can be used on carriers ranging from fleece to woven fabrics, leather, wood or plastics, it allows parts made of a range of materials to have "an optically uniform design," the statement said. This feature is valuable in vehicle interiors, where designers often want to incorporate all elements - seat covers, interior surfaces and more - into a homogeneous look, BASF said. "With BASF's research and development expertise and infrastructure and its partnership with Philipp Schaefer, we can unfold the full innovative potential of this very promising new technology," said Dr Jürgen Weiser, project manager for New Technologies at BASF's Performance Chemicals division, in the statement. BASF aims to use the new pilot facility to further develop the technology and work with customers to modify the process for individual applications and needs.PIC: Breathability means that this car seat made from Steron-coated leather offers greater comfort."