If you look around you, chances are you will see something painted or coated. Walls, floors, the surface of your desk, your glasses… Many materials have a layer of paint or a coating to protect them or to make them look nice. Preferably, a water-based paint is used, because it dries quickly, smells less and because water is a solvent that is not harmful to your health. The biggest disadvantage of the current waterborne paint is that it often contains ingredients that are made from fossil oil. And fossil oil is one of the resources that we no longer want to use, for various reasons, such as that it is not renewable.
In my project I studied waterborne coatings, which are coatings that have water as a solvent. The aim was to replace the binder of these coatings with gum arabic, a plant-based alternative. We modify the gum arabic on a molecular scale to make it water resistant after the coating has dried. Gum arabic consists of a long chain of sugar molecules and a few amino acids. The sugar molecules can be modified with a chemical called periodate. In my research, we used different analysis methods to find out in which part of the polymer chain of gum arabic the modification took place. We learned that periodate selectively oxidises certain sugars and with a high reproducibility. Using smaller sugar molecules, we were able to find out which products are formed in the reaction with periodate.