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Self-Healing Coating May Aid Water Systems

Monday, January 3, 2011

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A New Jersey nanotech firm is developing an environmentally friendly, self-healing, corrosion-control coating that could provide critical assistance in restoring the nation’s aging water infrastructure.

The initial research, by NEI Corp., of Somerset, NJ, was underwritten by a $69,996 Small Business Innovation Research Grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Water Infrastructure, Pipelines

The coating is designed to address two problems: internal and external corrosion of the nation’s water infrastructure and the need to develop corrosion protection for pipelines to carry alternative water sources for non-potable applications, according to EPA’s final report on the first phase of the project.

These alternate water sources contain high levels of dissolved salts, ammonia, and other constituents that can corrode the piping materials.

Healing without Chromium

Currently, toxic chromium is the only commonly used corrosion-control agent that has self-healing characteristics, which are critical to extending the life span of protective coatings, EPA’s report notes. “Use of chromium for wastewater treatment is now banned, however, due to its negative health effects.”

“A cost-effective and environmentally benign corrosion-control measure is required to extend the lifespan of aging water infrastructure and facilitate use of alternate water sources.”

80-Year-Old Pipes

Most of the nation’s water infrastructure is aging rapidly, according to EPA. About 30% of the major water systems’ pipes are 40 to 80 years old, and about 10% are more than 80 years old. These systems are vulnerable to internal and external corrosion, resulting in pipe leaks and water main breaks, according to EPA.

NEI’s self-healing, chromium-free, nanocomposite surface treatment would protect piping materials even at high contaminant concentrations. The coating “has demonstrated barrier properties and damage responsive behavior for sodium chloride and water diffusion under marine (3% salt) conditions,” EPA says.

In the first phase of the project, NEI integrated the self-healing surface treatment to existing copper, copper alloys, and carbon steel pipes to enable protection against ammonia and dissolved salts. Eventually, researchers plan to develop optimum corrosion protection formulations against different water quality constituents and piping materials.

Extending Infrastructure Life

“It is anticipated that the proposed application will extend the infrastructure life, lower the rehabilitation cost, and facilitate use of alternate water sources,” EPA reports.

“The proposed self-healing nanocomposite material is environmentally benign and not expensive. Furthermore, this technology allows the use of an alternate source for non-potable applications, thereby making precious fresh water sources available to meet the increasing demand.”

About NEI

NEI Corp., founded in 1997, manufactures protective coatings, anti-corrosion coatings and other nanomaterial products and provides contract-based R&D for public and private entities. The company’s American NanoMyte division develops and manufactures coating formulations that inhibit corrosion of steel, aluminum and magnesium.

“American NanoMyte currently offers the first ‘green’ self-healing anticorrosion coating system for metals,” the company says on its web site. “Our coatings—pretreatments, primers and topcoats—are built on a proprietary nanotechnology platform that protects metals and their alloys by slowing down corrosion mechanisms and stimulating autonomous processes that heal scratches or repair damage to the coating layers with little or no outside intervention.”

A video of one of NEI’s self-healing coatings is available at


Tagged categories: Corrosion; Corrosion control coatings; Corrosion protection; Infrastructure; Protective coatings

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