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‘Magic’ Coating Protects 100x Better

Thursday, October 11, 2012

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Graphene, a microscopically thin layer of carbon atoms invisible to the human eye, has been wowing researchers for the last few years.

Now, a new study shows that graphene coatings can make copper nearly 100 times more resistant to corrosion.

 A schematic (not drawn to scale) shows the corrosion mechanism occurring on uncoated (left) and graphene-coated copper specimens.

 Derrek E. Lobo

A schematic (not drawn to scale) shows the corrosion mechanism occurring on uncoated (left) and graphene-coated copper specimens. The impervious and inert graphene layer protects the copper film from electrochemical degradation.

In a paper published in the September issue of Carbon (“Protecting copper from electrochemical degradation by graphene coating”), researchers from Monash University in Australia and Rice University in Houston, TX, describe how they applied the graphene to copper at temperatures between 800 and 900 degrees using a technique called chemical vapor deposition. They then tested the metal in saline water.

“I call it magic material,” said Dr. Parama Banerjee, who performed most of the experiments for the study.

‘Almost 100 Times Better’

Researchers said their findings could mean major changes in the development of anti-corrosion coatings.

“We have obtained one of the best improvements that have been reported so far,” said Dr. Mainak Majumder, co-author of the study. “At this point, we are almost 100 times better than untreated copper. Other people are maybe five or six times better, so it’s a pretty big jump.”

The team reports that the graphene coating on copper “is shown to increase the resistance of the metal to electrochemical degradation by one and half orders of magnitude.”

“Detailed electrochemical characterization in aggressive chloride environment shows the impedance of Cu increasing dramatically and the anodic and cathodic current densities of the coated Cu becoming nearly 1–2 orders of magnitude smaller when coated with graphene.”

The observations are “counterintuitive, as graphite in contact with metals increases metallic corrosion,” the researchers concede. But that is why they foresee “paradigm changes in the development of anti-corrosion coatings using conformal, ultrathin graphene films.”

Improving on Polymers

Polymer coatings that are often used on metals can be scratched, compromising their protective ability, but the invisible layer of graphene is much harder to damage, the team said. Not only does graphene have excellent mechanical properties and strength, but it also preserves the appearance and feel of the metal, researchers said.

 Graphene is a layer of carbon atoms so thin as to be invisible to the human eye.

 Alexander AIUS / Wikimedia Commons

Graphene is a layer of carbon atoms so thin as to be invisible to the human eye.

Initial experiments have been confined to copper, but the research group is looking at using the same technique with other metals. They are also investigating ways of applying the coating at lower temperatures.

That could open up a huge range of applications, from ocean-going vessels to electronics, the team says.

“In nations like Australia, where we are surrounded by ocean, it is particularly significant that such an atomically thin coating can provide protection in that environment,” Banerjee said.

Other Uses for Graphene

This isn’t the wonder material’s first time in the research spotlight. In 2010, graphene was the subject of Nobel Prize-winning research, and universities all over the world have been researching different uses for the super-strong material. Coatings researchers have found plenty of promise as well.

In 2011, a team at Vanderbilt University developed methods to make water either bead up or run off of graphene oxide films. The technique could produce a coating that makes ship hulls glide through water more efficiently. 

Earlier this year, more research on graphene claimed it as the thinnest coating ever developed for protecting metals from corrosion. Scientists from this study, also from Vanderbilt University, found potential for graphene in non-invasive coatings, an energy-harvesting “smart skin” and as an antifouling coating.


Tagged categories: Coatings technology; Copper; Corrosion; Corrosion protection; Graphene; Protective coatings; Research

Comment from Albert Holder, (10/12/2012, 6:51 PM)

Graphene is a black fluffy powder in nanoparticle size. Is wetting a problem for user's. If it is only black in color, can it be used without heating the underside or must a topcoat be applied for ultraviolet protection?

Comment from Fred Marschall, (10/16/2012, 3:07 PM)

Thanks for the info "hummer".

Comment from Richard McLaughlin, (10/16/2012, 5:08 PM)

Albert, I'd imagine in this case electro-deposition was used to apply the graphene, but in the case of using graphene in a more conventional application, I would expect an epoxy doping process and depositing the graphene is more in order. There have been some experiments I’veread papers on where graphene was mixed with polymers or epoxies to make for harder or more damage resistant coatings. In cases like that, the graphene is more of an enhancing additive the actual coating material.

Comment from Chung-Seo Park, (10/18/2012, 1:35 AM)

Do you have application records for ship or offshore structure. And what's the dry film thickness do you recommend for anticorrosion coating at seawater immersion condition? Could you send me your paper

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (10/18/2012, 10:22 AM)

Application records for ships or offshore structures? There is barely enough graphene around to do lab-scale experiments. Just 8 years ago, the first practical method for tiny-scale graphene production was published (the "scotch tape" method) - graphene is a promising material, but we are still years, if not decades away from ship-scale applications.

Comment from Bogdan Dana, (10/18/2012, 9:23 PM)

I do agree with the comments that at this stage, this work/paper is purely academic, not sure if any paints Company would look at graphene as it may not be easy to disperse and stabilize in conventional epoxy or acrylic binders, I think the matter is highlyacademic at this stage. It should be not difficult to disperse via conventional high speed dispersers in an Epikote 828 or Epikote 1001 type epoxy resin using avaialble dispersing agents and then made stable over time and relatively easy to spray on as a coating. I think the current level of technique is far away from that, good luck to peole who will try it, the truth is that someone should put a hold on these bombastic headlines like "a 100 times better anticorrosive properties" regardless of how excited academic people might get about their preliminary results. Bogdan Dana, Wood Group Integrity Management, Perth, Australia

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (10/22/2012, 10:17 AM)

Bogdan - I don't know that a dispersion will be the right approach. This research project formed a continuous graphene film directly on the substrate, not flakes in a binder.

Comment from Bogdan Dana, (10/22/2012, 9:18 PM)

Good Day Tom, I dug out all the patents and publications about the topic "graphene coatings",did not get through all of them yet, there is one good patent from Vorbeck Materials Corporation dealing with binder free or 2% by weight binder in crosslinked graphene and graphite oxide compositions.Apart from that there are academic publications about "coatings or composites" with graphene all claiming 8 times or 20 times better corrosion resistance than everything else available, there is even a spin off Company from the University of Buffalo NY derived from that (the website is still under construction though as they say). Strange that some composites have got solvents incorporated, they should not be named composites then, the thing is that the more down to earth approach in my view is to make such dispersions (the graphene would come in as a powder, not "flakes" as you name it) or "powder concentrates" or "free flowing powders". If I shall find the right framework, I shall give it a go, I worked a lot with polymers and powders/pigments into various binders. Best regards, Bogdan Dana (

Comment from Mark Schilling, (10/24/2012, 8:40 AM)

It's academic stuff that won't come to fruition, to much of any real practical application, for a long, long time. So don't hold your breath. Academics tend to do two different things with respect to garnishing publicity. First, as in this case, is the propensity for self-aggrandizement. It's a miracle! It is "magic!" Aren't we PHDs simply stupendous for figuring this out?! Remember cold fusion in a flask a few decades back? Those goofball academics skipped the usual technical peer review process and went straight to press conference. It turns out that in the decades that have followed, no one has been able to reproduce their experimental results - not that a lot of people haven't tried. In fact, it turned out that those goofball academics had failed to even run a "blank" on ordinary water. You pull that kind of crap as an undergrad in a college chemistry lab course and you get an "F." (But Pons & Flieschman (sp?) were two distinguished academic guys!) The publish or perish mentality is thriving. Scientists are competitive folks who seek accomplishment and often publicity, if not celebrity. Those two goofs were too full of themselves. Second, academics almost always summarize with "this requires further study." Because that is what they do. They study stuff and they need funding to keep studying stuff. One final comment - more than 99% of all patents amount to absolutely nothing. They never make a dime. What most people fail to understand about patents is that the only requirement is that the concept is new and novel. There is NO requirement that the concept be true and of practical value - or even POSSIBLE.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (10/24/2012, 8:55 AM)

Bogdan - good luck with your project! While I used the term "flakes" I suppose you could argue for "microflakes." Yes, to the naked eye the graphene will likely appear to be a powder, but to have the properties of graphene, each particle needs to be effectively two-dimensional: A one-atom thick sheet, or perhaps just a few stacked.

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