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Polyurea Coatings Are "Better" Than Polyaspartics?


Is Polyurea Better Than Polyaspartic?

Confusion Surrounding Polyurea and Polyaspartic Coatings

We are hearing throughout the country that some flooring contractors are selling and claiming that "Polyurea Is Better Than Polyaspartic". That's just not true. If you are hearing this, you may want to run. Either the person does not understand chemistry, or worse, is just trying to mislead.

We have always known that Polyaspartics are Polyureas. But don’t take our word for it. We went straight to the people who invented and received the first patents for polyaspartic — Covestro, a world-leading supplier of high-tech polymer materials. Covestro, formerly Bayer MaterialScience, developed and patented the polyaspartic aliphatic polyurea chemistry technology. As you will discover reading this article, all polyaspartics are polyureas.

In the 1990's Bayer MaterialScience introduced a revolutionary new polymer they called polyaspartic, which is the reaction component of an aliphatic polyisocyanate and a aliphatic polyaspartic ester. Polyaspartics are aliphatic polyureas, and not all polyureas are aliphatic. Polyaspartic, aliphatic polyurea, formulations can be altered to adjust gel times (time it takes for a liquid to solidify) varying as much as 1 to 60+ minutes. This breakthrough meant that aliphatic polyureas, polyaspartics, were now versatile and could be used in nearly any application from flooring to corrosion protection without specialized application equipment. Conventional polyurea polymers are the reaction of aromatic polyisocyanates and aromatic amines that gel (turn from liquid to solid) in just a few seconds, meaning they require expensive and specialized application plural component spraying equipment (we'll touch more on this subject in next week's blog post).

  • Covestro, leader in polymer material solutions.

The letter from Covestro, formerly Bayer MaterialScience, reads:

"Per your request, we will clarify the differences between polyaspartic and polyurea .... By definition, a polyaspartic polymer is an aliphatic polyurea because it is the reaction of an aliphatic polyisocyanate with an aliphatic diamine - the polyaspartic ester."

Todd Williams, Technical Service, Covestro AG

Polyaspartics Are Aliphatic Polyureas

The key takeaway here is that polyaspartic polymers are a type of polyurea, an aliphatic polyurea to be exact. However, not all polyurea polymers are true polyaspartics. This is because a polyaspartic is only created when you use an aliphatic polyisocyanate reacted with an aliphatic diamine - the polyaspartic ester. Conventional polyurea polymers on the other hand can be created using aromatic polyisocyanates and amines.

To understand the difference between aromatic and aliphatic compounds you will need to study up on your organic chemistry. Where aromatic compounds are unsaturated, aliphatic compounds can be both saturated and unsaturated. What matters in organic chemistry that applies to man-made coatings is that we use both aromatic and aliphatic compounds. Aliphatic paints and coatings like polyaspartics are light stable, better at resisting yellowing from UV exposure (sunlight) because they don't contain benzene rings. Aromatic compounds like conventional polyureas are susceptible to UV degradation because of the unsaturated benzene, more susceptible to photo degradation or attack from free radicals formed from the UV exposure.

Researchers have known about the inherent flaws of aromatic chemistry in the presence of UV light (sunlight) for quite some time. In fact, there's quite a bit of research on this topic, an example study is quoted below studying organic UV absorbers effect in hindering photodegradation of aromatic polymers. Currently there is no 100% aliphatic epoxy floor coating. Thus, all epoxy floor coatings and conventional polyureas contain aromatic compounds and are subject to UV photodegradation, yellowing, and impaired mechanical properties. Many coatings manufacturers claim UV stability in their epoxies, but all they have done is bought time as the study below shows delayed UV degradation when using organic UV absorbers in epoxy formulations. Aromatic coatings, which include epoxies and conventional polyureas are therefore not recommended for applications exposed to sunlight.

UV Photodegradation - 30% Reduction In Tensile Strength of Aromatic Epoxies

The Effects of UV Light on the Chemical and Mechanical Properties of a Transparent Epoxy-Diamine System in the Presence of an Organic UV Absorber

"UV light of sunlight forms free radicals on the surface of polymer-based materials ... These radicals are extremely active in attacking the polymeric structures ... these chemical bonds are prone to break and photodegradation occurs ... After an 800 h UV radiation, mechanical test results revealed that the lack of the UV absorber can lead to a ~30% reduction in tensile strength. However, in the presence of (UV Absorber), the tensile strength was reduced only by ~11%."

Saeid Nikafshar, Omid Zabihi, Mojtaba Ahmadi, Abdolreza Mirmohseni, Mojtaba Taseidifar, and Minoo Naebe. Various Departments of Chemistry, Physics and Engineering (click here for source).

CONCLUSION: Polyureas Are Not Better Than Polyaspartics

In summary, if you're being told "Polyurea coatings are better than polyaspartic coatings" you should probably RUN. This is FALSE, as polyaspartics are a type of polyurea. Anyone saying otherwise is praying on you not knowing any better, they are trying to cleverly confuse people. The polyaspartic naming convention was used to differentiate it from other polyureas and polyurethanes that are inferior in performance. Don't settle for a polyurea floor coating as it is most likely aromatic and susceptible to UV degradation (yellowing), and prone to adhesion or wetting issues since those materials gel in seconds versus 30-60 minutes for polyaspartics. Polyaspartic, aliphatic polyurea, coatings are better for flooring applications.

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Letter From Covestro on Polyaspartic Naming Nomenclature

  • Polyaspartic Aliphatic Polyurea

Letter from Covestro AG on 10/7/2019 titled "Polyaspartic naming nomenclature".

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About The Author

About the author

Samuel Strayer is a trained chemist with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from Arizona State University with an emphasis on material and polymer science. Samuel has been involved in developing and testing coating systems for over 10 years.

Keywords: polyurea, polyaspartic, aliphatic, epoxy, polyurethane, coatings, covestro, bayer, material, science, flooring, floors

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