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$24.5M for Coatings Research Keeps Mach 2.5 Raindrops Fallin’

Friday, August 12, 2011

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Supersonic rain experiments and other leading-edge protective coatings testing will continue at the University of Dayton Research Institute, thanks to a new $24.5 million contract from the U.S. Air Force.

The five-year contract allows the university’s researchers to test and evaluate protective paints and coatings for aerospace and other applications.

The responsibility includes continued operation and maintenance of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Coatings Technology Integration Office, Special Test and Research facilities, and water- and sand-erosion labs at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The university team has operated the facility for 10 years.

 Rain Rig


For 35 years, the “rain rig” has been used to evaluate coating durability at the Rain Erosion Test Facility at Wright-Patterson AFB, near Dayton, OH.

Under the new contract, the Research Institute also will operate AFRL’s new Supersonic Rain Erosion (SURE) facility, which will shoot raindrops at speeds up to Mach 2.5 to test the durability of coatings, sealants and other aerospace materials. The new contract replaces and expands on a recently expired five-year, $10.1 million contract.

Through Rain, Sand and Extremes

The UDRI Paint Testing and Coatings Research Group evaluates coatings and solves paint problems for government and industry. The group, which includes 17 coating professionals, is accredited to ISO 17025 and SAE AS 5505 for the application, testing, and performance characterization of organic coatings.

The group’s largest customer is the Air Force CTIO at Wright-Patterson. The office is the Air Force’s central resource for aircraft coating systems and their applications.

 Dust Rig
The “dust rig” is the heart of the Wright-Patterson Particle Erosion Test Facility.

University researchers test and evaluate the performance of coatings and materials used primarily for military and commercial aerospace applications under a variety of conditions, including extreme temperatures and humidity; they also assist in the development of advanced coatings.

In the erosion labs, researchers use simulated rainfall, sand and other materials and processes to test the durability of coatings exposed to water erosion and particle erosion.

Developing the Right Paint Stuff

“Paints, sealants and other coatings contain special properties that protect surfaces from damaging environments,” said Bill Culhane, coatings group leader at the institute.

“By scientifically evaluating coatings, we can verify they are doing their jobs and recommend the best coatings for specific applications and environments. It’s much easier and [more] efficient to protect a surface with the right paint than to replace the surface,” Culhane said.

 Bill Culhane
Bill Culhane’s team develops, tests, evaluates and recommends protective coatings at the University of Dayton Research Institute.

University researchers are also working to transition new coating technologies to market, provide assistance for field coating problems, develop and evaluate paint removal methods for metals and composites, and provide corrosion analysis and prevention recommendations.

Although the labs are located on base, the coatings application and testing facilities are available to industrial customers through Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs).

For more information, contact Culhane at 937-255-0197 or


Tagged categories: Coatings technology; Durability; Performance testing; Protective coatings; Research; Weathering

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