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From Waste, a Hot New Coating

Thursday, September 11, 2014

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While the U.S. awaits a federal decision on the safety of coal ash, Mexican researchers have found a new use for the industrial waste: high-temperature coatings.

Scientists from Mexico's Center for Research in Advanced Materials (Cimav) say they have developed nanostructured coatings capable of withstanding temperatures exceeding 1000 degrees Celsius (about 1832 degrees Fahrenheit)—the environment of aviation turbine components.

Aircraft Turbine

The coating aims to address a common problem in aviation—degradation of superalloys used in turbines, where the environment can exceed 1000°C.

The coating aims to address one of the most common problems in aviation—the "microstructural degradation of superalloys that integrate turbines," reports

Life in the 'Hot Zone'

Inside the turbine's "hot zone," blades, nozzles and other components made of nickel-based superalloys are subjected to "very strong" damage by the heat, which diminishes the turbine's energy efficiency and compromises the structure's thermal and mechanical properties, according to Dr. Ana Maria Arizmendi Morquecho, who is leading the research.

Arizmendi Morquecho's research specialty includes multicomponent nanostructured coatings on metal substrates for corrosion protection and resistance to high temperatures. She also has explored the development of thermal barrier coatings with ultra low thermal conductivity based on waste materials.

Dr. AnaMariaArizmendiMorquecho

Dr. Ana Maria Arizmendi Morquecho, who is leading the research, specializes in thermal barrier coatings with ultra low thermal conductivity based on waste materials.

The new research combines those specialties, putting fly ash to work in the new material mix.

Benefiting Industry

"We found that taking advantage of the large amount of mullite, which is a chemically and thermally stable compound found in the flying ash, we can use this material as a ceramic matrix, which by the addition of different particles have obtained novel nanocomposites that greatly diminish the thermal conductivity and are used in developing coatings for superalloys," Arizmendi Morquecho told

After five years of development, the team is planning final laboratory testing, Arizmendi Morquecho said.

Aircraft Turbine

The coating, which uses fly ash, could prove a boon for both the aviation and coal industries.

If successful, the coating would not only benefit the aviation industry but find an additional beneficial use for the industrial waste from northern Mexico's coal plants—a plus for Cimav, where interdiscplinary teams for scientists partner with industry to address industrial problems.

U.S. Coal Ash Rule

The Mexican research was announced as the clock ticks down in the United States on a federal determination on whether to regulate Coal Combustion Residuals (CCRs) as hazardous waste.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule in June 2010 that included two possible options for regulating CCRs (one as hazardous waste; the other, not), but the agency has still not announced which option it will choose.

Under fire by parties on all sides of the issue (including a federal judge), the agency has promised a decision by the end of 2014.


Tagged categories: Aviation; Coal ash; Coal Combustion Residuals; Coating Materials; Hazardous waste; Heat-resistive coatings; Latin America; North America; Protective Coatings; Research; Thermal-barrier coatings

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (9/11/2014, 8:46 AM)

While it is neat to see any beneficial use of fly ash, I am having trouble imagining that they would be using more than a few thousand pounds a year for this application.

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