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Corrosion Chemist Wins Tess Award

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

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The inventor of a magnesium-rich primer that delivers the same sacrificial protection as zinc-rich primers on ferrous substrates will receive the American Chemical Society's prestigious Roy W. Tess Award in Coatings for 2013.

Dr. Gordon P. Bierwagen, of North Dakota State University's Department of Coatings and Polymeric Materials, will receive the award from the society's Division of Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering, the association announced.

Bierwagen's research focuses on coatings formulation concepts and corrosion, including the effect of coatings on corrosion and the development of anti-corrosion coatings.

Dr. Gordon Bierwagen is being honored for his research, specifically his invention of magnesium-rich primers for ferrous substrates.

The Roy W. Tess Award is presented annually to recognize outstanding individual achievements and contributions to coatings science, technology and engineering.

Bierwagen will receive the award Sept. 9, 2013, from Dr. David Martin, chair of the PMSE Division, at the 246th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Indianapolis. The award consists of a plaque and a $3,000 cash prize.

Magnesium-Rich Primers

NDSU's growing coatings program includes electrochemical testing of coatings, the use of conducting polymers as corrosion inhibitors, the invention of magnesium-rich coatings to replace primers containing hexavalent chromium, and the use of electrochemical sensors embedded in coatings.

Bierwagen joined the Polymer and Coatings Department as a professor in 1989. He chaired the department for a decade and now serves as the director of the Center for Surface Protection

Comparison of mg-rich primer
Bierwagen et al. / NDSU

Dr. Gordon Bierwagen reported on his chromate-free, magnesium-rich primer (second from left) in a presentation at the 2009 DOD Corrosion Conference. Early critics doubted the coating would work.

During his career, Bierwagen has successfully developed magnesium-rich primers that provide the same sacrificial protection for ferrous substrates as zinc-rich primers, according to the ACS. 

The magnesium-rich system has been in service trials for three years on military cargo and fighter aircraft, the society reports. No problems have been reported, and laboratory and field tests indicate that the system inhibits corrosion as well as the chromate inhibitor.

When the primer was first proposed, the prevailing opinion was that the concept would not work, but Bierwagen and his co-workers have since developed it into a viable technology that has been licensed by AkzoNobel.

Over 40 Years of Experience

Bierwagen holds his Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Iowa State University and earned a BS in chemistry and mathematics at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, IN.

He started his coatings career in 1969 as a research chemist in the electrochemical engineering department at Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, OH. The next year, he joined The Sherwin-Williams Co. as a senior chemist at the company's Chicago, IL, location. He later became the laboratory director.

In 1987, Bierwagen joined Avery Decorative Films Division as the director of research and development in Schererville, IL, where he focused on industrial processes for continuously applying coatings and films on a variety of substrates.

NDSU Center for Surface Protection

Bierwagen has worked in the coatings industry since 1969. In 1989, he joined NDSU's Polymer and Coatings Department and currently serves as the director of the department's Center for Surface Protection.

Bierwagen has been the editor-in-chief of Progress in Organic Coatings journal for 16 years; has published more than 160 peer-reviewed articles; edited the ACS Symposium Series, Vol. 689, on Organic Coatings for Corrosion Control; and has one recent patent and four pending patents related to coatings corrosion control of metal substrates.

In both 1972 and 2003, Bierwagen won Roon Foundation awards for best paper. He also received the 2007 Mattiello Lecture Award from the American Coatings Association and has been an invited and plenary lecturer and keynote speaker at several international coatings and corrosion conferences.

Prior Winners

The 2012 Roy W. Tess Award went to Dr. Benny D. Freeman, of the University of Texas Austin’s Department of Chemical Engineering. Freeman was honored for his body of work in the area of polymer and coatings material science and technology applied to membranes.

The 2011 Roy W. Tess Award recipient was NDSU's Dr. Dean C. Webster, a veteran researcher in high-performance polymers and non-toxic antifouling coatings.

2014 Nominations Invited

The chemical society is now seeking nominations for the 2014 Tess Award.

The 2014 award, with a $3,000 cash prize and plaque, will be presented in August 2014 at the ACS national meeting in San Francisco, CA.

Nominations are welcomed from all segments of the industry, academia, and the government and should be sent to Theodore Provder, Tess Award Chairman, 5645A Emerald Ridge Parkway, Solon, OH 44139.

Nominations for the 2014 award are due by Sept. 1, 2013. Nominations received after this date will be considered for the next year. A submitted nomination is viable for four years.

For more information, contact Provder at 440-914-0611 or


Tagged categories: American Chemical Society; Awards and honors; Green coatings; Laboratory testing; Metals; Primers; Research; Roy W. Tess Award; Zinc

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