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Determine the Surface Energy of a Substrate in 5 min

Richard Kaiser – Feb 16, 2016

wetting properties of a substrate This test is designed to quickly and inexpensively determine the wetting properties of a substrate. It is not designed to overcome all complications in substrate wetting but rather allow the chemist to rapidly determine a potential solution and move forward. This procedure works for both solvent and water based coatings.

Today’s coatings are applied to an unbelievable number and types of substrates. The explosion of material science and new materials has lead to an amazing number of choices for substrates and materials of construction in industrial and consumer products.

Should you wish to protect or decorate a substrate, the coating must adhere to it, and it starts with a good wetting of the substrate. 



”If you can’t wet it, you can’t stick to it”




Why Good Substrate Wetting is Often Complex?


Many modern surfaces are chemically complex. The manufacturing process in creating them can vary over time as well as the materials of construction and this can have an effect the substrates wetting properties. The materials of construction may be combinations of, but not limited to:

  • Wood, exotic  wood
  • Polymers and plastics
  • Leather, organic derived materials
  • Metals and alloys
  • Ceramics, glass
  • Stone, composites of stone & polymers


Trial and error may lead to poor wetting, irregular coating coverage, inadequate coating penetration, poor adhesion, poor performance, and early failure of the coating...

If you are experiencing any of these problems you may want to try this procedure. It is much easier to make a coating once you understand where it is going to be applied and its expected performance.

The following procedure allows you to estimate the HLB of the substrate.

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