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Engineers and researchers intend to use these two buildings located at the Silver Flag Exercise Site at Tyndall AFB, Fla. in a test to determine the heat reflectivity value of a ceramic coating. The building on the left will receive the ceramic coating on its roof while the building on the right will remain "as-is." (U.S. Air Force/photo by Mr. Eddie Green)
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Ceramic coatings: An energy-saving game changer?

Posted 1/31/2012   Updated 1/31/2012 Email story   Print story


by Amy Ausley

1/31/2012 - TYDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- How much can a new coat of paint help the Air Force toward its energy goals? That's what Air Force engineers and researchers are hoping to find out.

Testing to begin

Engineers at the Air Force Civil Engineer Support Agency, Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., are getting ready to put a specialized type of ceramic coating or "paint" to the energy-saving test. The Air Force has reduced facility energy use 15 percent since 2003, but federal mandates require government agencies to reduce it even further, cutting energy use 30 percent by 2015.
Tests of the ceramic coating material will start in April 2012 at the Silver Flag Exercise Site at Tyndall using two nearly identical buildings used as barracks to house students.

The two buildings are the same in almost every way, right down to the air conditioning systems which, according to Mr. Steve McLellan, an Energy Program Manager at AFCESA, makes the site a perfect real-world test lab. "It's a very unique situation because they are identical in size, construction and how they're used. We can make sure the number of students assigned to each building is the same, and we can keep everything as similar as possible so the only real difference is the coating."

According to McLellan, this gives AFCESA engineers a chance to see firsthand how the product works on a full-scale building as opposed to just using test panels. One barrack will serve as the test building with the new coating on the roof, while the other will be the control building and will remain "as-is." Energy use in both buildings will be metered for a year. With the soaring temperatures in Florida through the summer months, there may be significant comparison data from the project as early as the fall of 2012.

Phase Two

Phase two of the project will come after the initial year of data is collected. The control building will then get a layer of non-ceramic material and the metering will continue for another year to see if the ceramic coating outperforms the non-ceramic material.

While the ceramic coating product has been around for 20 years, it was never mass marketed. The Air Force has used a similar product from the same company at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., to protect "mothballed" aircraft from the heat. The formula in that case is slightly different because it needs to be easily removable. In the Tyndall test, engineers are looking for durability and endurance in addition to energy savings.


If the ceramic coating performs well it could have multiple applications in warm climates, possibly even in an expeditionary setting. "Ceramic coatings is one of the products being tested as a coating for the flys over the expeditionary tents because it is flexible and can be folded multiple times as they erect and then disassemble the tents," says McLellan.

"Ceramic coating performed well in the lab, and now we're all anxious to see if it can bring those same results to practical applications on bases and on the battlefield," says McLellan.

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