Harnessing nanotechnology and polymer science, the Navy has helped develop a spray-on protective coating that, depending on application thickness, makes surfaces blast-, ballistic- and fire-resistant.
The surface technology, called HybridSil Fire/Blast, “acts like a force field that surrounds and protects any type of surface,” according to a release from the Office of Naval Research, which developed the coating with NanoSonic Inc., of Pembroke, VA.
|Inventors Vince Baranauskas (left) and Michael Bortner, of NanoSonic Inc., hold a panel coated with flame- and blast-protective HybridSil.|
“You can take an existing material and change it completely to make it more useful for the warfighter," said Dr. Roshdy George S. Barsoum, ONR's manager, Explosion-Resistant Coating, Ships and Engineering Systems Division.
“[W]e are developing something that the warfighter can really use and exploit.”
Integrating ‘Mutually Exclusive’ Technologies
“The unique properties of these coatings are their ability to combine flame and blast protection,” Vince Baranauskas, director of polymer science and engineering at NanoSonic, told the Virginian Leader.
“A handful of materials provide either feature, but not both, since the properties are mutually exclusive with currently available material technologies.”
Baranauskas and Michael Bortner, director of manufacturing process development, developed the coating with Barsoum and ONR.
NanoSonic makes the material using a patented, environmentally friendly, room-temperature nano-technology manufacturing process, the Virginian Leader reported. Baranauskas told the newspaper that the material could be tailored for initial cure in 20 to 60 minutes at room temperature, followed by full cure within 24 hours in open-air environments.
Different Thickness, Different Protection
The coating is sprayed onto surfaces just like paint, with minimal surface preparation, according to ONR. It is applied in variable thicknesses—less for fireproofing and more for blast resistance.
The tricky part, ONR says, is that the law of diminishing returns is at work: At some point, the more you apply, the less effective the coating becomes. Determining the appropriate amount for each surface and user need is complex, Barsoum said.
The Navy says it is particularly interested in the material's fire-resistant properties, because fires present one of the greatest threats on a ship or submarine. The Army and Air Force have also been investigating the coating’s use to protect buildings against vehicle-borne explosive devices.
Project partner NanoSonic specializes in the design and manufacture of innovative materials. The company was established in 1998 in cooperation with nearby Virginia Tech and the Commonwealth of Virginia. NanoSonic holds 18 patents; its clients include the Defense Department, NASA and National Science Foundation.
Attacks Fueled Research
Research into the coating technology began after the bombing of the USS Cole (DDG 67) on Oct. 12, 2000, the Navy said.
The Navy wanted to find new ways to protect ships, including coatings and polymers that could shield against explosions and fire. The research took off after the 9/11 attacks, with the new coating applied to rebuilt sections of the Pentagon.
The coating has been honored with an “R&D 100” Award—known as “the Oscars of Invention”—from R&D Magazine.
The 49th Annual awards, presented Thursday (Oct. 13), saluted the 100 most technologically significant products introduced into the marketplace over the past year.
Winning products include sophisticated testing equipment, innovative new materials, chemistry breakthroughs, biomedical products, consumer items and high-energy physics.
Other Coatings Honored
Other coatings technology honored among R&D’s 100 included:
• Teslan Carbon Nanocoating, developed by Tesla NanoCoatings Ltd., of Massillon, OH, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Teslan is the first commercially available corrosion-resistant coating for steel made with fullerene carbon nanotubes (CNTs).
• Nanostructured Antifogging Coatings, developed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The durable, non-toxic antifogging and self-cleaning coating is intended for architectural glass, windshields, solar panels, and eyewear.
• Electroplated Mn-Co Coating for Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Interconnects, developed by experts from the National Energy Technology Laboratory (Albany, OR), West Virginia University (Morgantown WV) and Faraday Technology Inc. (Clayton, OH).
Army Corps of Engineers ERDC CERL
|Teslan Carbon Nanocoating, also named an R&D 100 winner, was applied to a fuel tank at Fort Bragg. The epoxy and polyurethane coating is formulated with carbon nanotubes.|