US Army Corps of Engineers
Engineer Research and Development Center Website

Paint Technology Center

Published Dec. 3, 2012
At PTC, weathering racks expose painted metal samples to years of ambient environmental stresses.

At PTC, weathering racks expose painted metal samples to years of ambient environmental stresses.

The research of PTC scientists leads to higher performing paints and coating.

The research of PTC scientists leads to higher performing paints and coating.

Leading Laboratory Research and Field Testing Expertise

Major construction and maintenance programs face significant application problems related to paint and coatings technology. So where do project managers and designers go for the best research in both laboratory and field testing?

Innovative Testing for Proven Performance Guidelines

The Paint Technology Center (PTC), located at ERDC’s Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) in Champaign, IL, is the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Center of Expertise for paints and coatings. The paint experts at PTC have at their disposal an extensive array of laboratory equipment and instrumentation to conduct tests and evaluations and perform research and development on a broad range of coating types.

PTC field and lab tests can measure the performance of paints and coatings under mild to extreme conditions for many types of infrastructure programs, including:

  • Quality assurance testing of paints and coating for use on USACE projects
  • Comparative testing of paint/coating formulations
  • Failure analysis of field-applied products
  • Specification development
  • Training and criteria document development

On average, PTC receives 600 inquiries a year from the public and private sectors regarding paint system selection, testing, training, research, inspection and management. The majority of requests come from USACE Civil Works and Military Construction activities, and other U.S. Army and Department of Defense (DoD) activities.

To broaden its equipment and technology base and address the full range of customer needs in the field of paint technology, PTC maintains relationships with the Society for Protective Coatings (SSPC), American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), NACE International, and the University of Illinois.


Facility and Staff Dedicated to Testing and Research

PTC has specialized equipment and instrumentation for both the laboratory and field evaluation of paint and coatings—ranging from the common laboratory tools and supplies necessary to perform routine paint testing to the sophisticated electronic instrumentation required to perform research and development and forensic-type studies.

Researchers at PTC have studied paint performance requirements for wood, concrete and metallic substrates and various types of application equipment. Current research efforts include:

  • High performance coatings for corrosion protection in atmospheric and water immersion services 
  • Abrasion-resistant coatings
  • Coatings for use on aluminum
  • Coatings that meet air pollution regulations
  • Coatings for high temperature applications

State-of-the-art weathering equipment at the PTC gauges paint and coating performance over prolonged periods of naturally occurring distress using the following experimental methods:

  • Outdoor paint coupon exposure racks test paint performance under normal environmental stress
  • Salt- and fresh-water immersion tanks simulate paint conditions in aquatic environments common for Corps of Engineers' Civil Works structures, like locks and dams. (Some samples housed in this equipment have been subject to  40+ years of severe environmental stresses)
  • Salt fog/heat prohesion cabinet and ultraviolet exposure equipment create an accelerated-corrosion  environment for more rapid stress testing

Success Stories

  • Developed paint systems for civil works hydraulic structures used extensively in the United States and abroad
  • Conducted on-site inspections of coatings for USACE in Europe, Africa, Middle East, Far East, Central America and the United States
  • Evaluated coatings for USACE Civil Works and Military Construction projects throughout the United States
  • Investigated criminal fraud and provided expert witness guidance on painting work at military installations


The unique collection of equipment and supplies at the PTC, combined with the knowledge and experience of staff researchers, enables the development and specification of paints and coatings for specialized uses. PTC staff continuously monitors new developments in paint and coatings to select new products for evaluation in the laboratory prior to demonstration at field test sites. Successful new products are included into current criteria documents so that USACE project designers can specify them on future projects.

Researchers at PTC provide many forms of assistance to Army, other government, and non-government interests—ranging from responding to routine questions encountered in the field of paint specifications and use to creating inspection techniques and standards and conducting on-site analysis of application problems and coating failures.

Through consultation, researchers are able to clearly understand the problems encountered in the field and direct their research toward solving the problems

Contact, 217.373.3364, Ph.D., 217.373.4467

Materials and Structures Branch (CEERD-CFM)
US Army Engineer Research and Development Center | Construction Engineering Research Laboratory
Updated 27 Oct. 2020