Plasticizers are additives that increase the plasticity or fluidity of a material. Coating formulations based on physically drying binders such as nitrocellulose, require external plasticizers for optimal film formation.
Classical plasticizers are phthalate esters such as DOP. Due to toxicity concerns phthalate free plasticizers are being preferred for various applications, for instance plasticizers like ATBC (citrate), DOA, DINA (adipates) or DINCH (dicarboxylate).
This paper reviews specific features of phthalate based plasticizers and alternatives, as used in coating formulations.
Plasticizers are used to control the film formation process of coatings based on physically drying film forming materials. Proper film formation is essential in order to meet demands on specific coating properties such as dry film appearance, substrate adhesion, elasticity, in combination with high level of hardness at the same time.
Plasticizers function by reducing film formation temperature and elasticize the coating; plasticizers work by embedding themselves between the chains of polymers, spacing them apart (increasing the "free volume"), and thus significantly lowering the glass transition temperature for the polymer and making it softer.