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Fighting Corrosion the 18th Century Way

Friday, September 18, 2015

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Scientists at a Chinese research facility are working on an alternative to coatings to help fight corrosion in the country’s naval fleet.

The role of bacteria in corrosion and the antibacterial nature of copper are at the heart of their work.

© / Ngataringa

A new copper-steel amalgam kills corrosive bacteria without the need for coatings, scientists from the Institute of Metal Research say.

Researchers at the Institute of Metal Research of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shenyang, Liaoning province looked back to the 18th century for inspiration, according to the South China Morning Post.

Looking to the British navy’s practice of applying copper to the bottoms of their wooden ships to prevent rot, the scientists set out to find a way to combine copper with the duplex stainless steel used for ships.

Lab Work

It took the research team, led by Yang Ke, more than ten years to uncover the copper-steel formulation that would make the most of the antibacterial nature of copper and not negatively impact the strength of the steel.

As part of their testing procedures, the team used the Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacterial strain, common in ocean waters and responsible for eating away at even the hardest metals.

The scientists grew cultures of the P. aeruginosa on the amalgam and found that the material killed almost 97 percent of the bacteria in a week’s time, preventing corrosion and “effectively eradicating the biofilm,” SCMP wrote.

Material Benefits

In addition to the anticorrosive benefits, the researchers say the material should also boost speed and maneuverability of ships, as the bacteria on the hull adds weight and drag.

The new material, though still in testing, will be able to be used on elements in hard-to-reach areas, such as joints and shafts, where it can be a challenge or unfeasible to apply anticorrosion coatings.

The team acknowledges that the problem they face is making the new copper-steel material cost-efficient enough to be put into use. Similar materials developed for the medical industry, for instance, would be too expensive to be used on ships, SCMP reported.

Though not part of the research team, marine engineering professor Huang Weiping, of the Ocean University of China, is hopeful that this research finding when applied to ships and submarines, could help make China a new sea power.

Despite the success in the lab, the material has yet to be tested in a true industry application.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Copper; Corrosion; Corrosion protection; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Latin America; North America; Research and development; Stainless steel; Surface Preparation

Comment from Xingliang Zhang, (9/18/2015, 3:17 AM)

Great ideas. One sheet fulfils two roles - anti-corrosion and anti-fouling. End of coating business.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (9/28/2015, 11:37 AM)

Needs coupon testing in actual ocean water to see if the roles hold up as well in real world conditions as it does against a single species on agar.

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