Peak paint?

Highway departments across North America are unable to paint stripes on the pavement because of a shortage of two key components: methyl methacrylate (MMA) and titanium dioxide (TiO2).

MMA is the durable acrylic resin used in highway paint. Dow Chemical is the largest MMA producer in the world, but over the past two years the chemical giant shut down 60% of its production due to reduced demand from the economic recession. They were caught unprepared for the sudden demand when Federal stimulus projects came online this spring. Chinese suppliers are reserving their supply for Chinese highway projects. The result: an acute shortage of highway paint.


Bike lane placement

The other ingredient, titanium dioxide, is the bright white pigment used in everything from paint to toothpaste. The main exporter is China, and historically this pigment has been very inexpensive. China recently, however, curtailed their exports of the pigment for their own highway projects.

San Jose, CA is delaying bike lane markings because of the paint shortage.

More @ Engineering News Record: Highway Paint Is in Short Supply. H/T to Paul Metz.

5 Comments

  • Marcus
    August 19, 2010 - 10:39 am | Permalink

    Maybe a perfect time to find a more enviromental friendly alternative to the paint?

  • August 19, 2010 - 10:51 am | Permalink

    =v= Let the record show that I've favored bright green over white paint for two decades now.

    (We can solve this problem by banning cars from our bike roads.)

  • August 19, 2010 - 11:41 am | Permalink

    How friendly? We don't want the roads decomposing.

    Those permeable pavement blocks seem to be the new thing. Perhaps they could be pigmented with photosynthetic microbes. The lane markings could then be incorporated right into the layout of the pavement blocks. Nighttime visibility would be a problem, though. Said microbes would have to be fluorescent as well. And there would need to be a way to prevent them from colonizing adjacent blocks.

    (The server is down at work.)

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  • bikesgonewild
    August 21, 2010 - 2:46 pm | Permalink

    …let the chinese keep their industrial compounds…their track record as regards standards of what is appropriate & healthy is constantly a major concern & generally the truth is found out after the fact…
    …any of this type of compound would not be considered “healthy” by any standard but chinese industry always manages to lower the equation & in finding ways to cut corners, there is a major health risk involved…

    …as far as titanium dioxide, why aren't we being supplied by russia…i was under the impression that they were the strongest titanium goods producer in the world, at least as of 10 years ago…

    …what a dichotomy…federal stimulus projects = a lotta quick, cheap, shoddy paving jobs (or the money goes back to the feds) + (or minus) not enough pavement paint to finish up the work & as regards this subject alone, the recession really hasn't been a good go-round…

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