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Anti-Corrosion Coating Crafted from Bacteria

Monday, June 12, 2017

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Alex Harold, a researcher at Swansea University in Wales, recently won the Tata Group’s "Dare to Try" award for creating an environmentally friendly anti-corrosion steel coating using bacteria found in the ground.

The project, called "Superhydrophobic Coatings from Bacterial Proteins," used proteins derived from soil bacteria to create a thin coating that could protect steel substrates.

"We wanted to try a coating that wasn't just inspired by nature but utilized biological components to provide a solution to an industrial problem," Harold explained. "The cell surface of a common soil bacteria—Streptomyces sp.—is not only hydrophobic but it protects the organism from desiccation and therefore the movement of water across the cell barrier."

Swansea University

Alex Harold, a Swansea University researcher, recently won the Tata Group’s “Dare to Try” award for creating an environmentally friendly anti-corrosion steel coating.

Nanoscale Coating

According to Harold, she was able to create a solution with the protein that would self-assemble along hydrophobic and hydrophilic interfaces.

“Using this property, we were able to coat steel products and produce a robust protein coating that was less than 10 nanometers [.01 micrometers] thick, able to withstand boiling and freezing and to reduce the potential for corrosion," she explains. The innovative new coating provides an environmentally friendly solution without any loss of performance in comparison with more traditional coatings, she says.

In the competition, Harold was up against 5,000 other teams, some of which came from divisions of TSteel Europe, Tata Global Beverages and Jaguar Land Rover. She was part of a field of 51 teams shortlisted for the final placement in Mumbai. Harold herself is an engineering doctoral student at Swansea University, which shares a close connection with Tata Steel.

"Alex has managed to develop an exciting, environmentally friendly and robust application for anti-corrosion for Tata Steel," said Dr Geertje van Keulen, project academic lead and associate of the Institute of Life Science at the Swansea University Medical School. "Her work has enabled us to unlock other application studies: We have recently received two research funding awards from the Defense and Security Accelerator for further development of protein-based materials for the defense sector."

Tata Group, based in Mumbai, is a conglomerate of more than 100 operating companies that reported more than $100 million in revenues last year. Tata Steel is one of the largest steel manufacturers in the world, with operations in 26 countries, including the U.K.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Coating Materials; Coating Materials; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Green coatings; Latin America; North America; Research and development

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