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Graphene to Protect Chinese Military Infrastructure

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

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Researchers in China are working on the development of a new protective coating intended for military weapons and infrastructure that’s been installed on artificial islands in the South China Sea.

According to the South China Morning Post, the military plans to use graphene, an anti-corrosion coating originally developed by researchers at the University of Manchester in 2004. The coating is reported to be one atom thick and 100 times tougher than steel.

The Problem

Due to the sensitivity of the issue, a researcher, who preferred to remain unnamed, explained how an artillery gun was recently put out of service “in just three months because of rust.” Other weapons and infrastructure including harbor walls, radar and missile launch systems, pipelines, airport structures, runways and even the island’s foundations, to name a few, are also being reported to develop damage earlier than predicted.

Rost-9D

Researchers in China are working on the development of a new protective coating intended for military weapons and infrastructure that’s been installed on artificial islands in the South China Sea.

“Due to historical reasons, our country has not fully studied the natural environment of the South China Sea and its impact on the engineering structure on the islands and reefs,” wrote Hu Qigao, a professor at the National University of Defence Technology, in a paper published last year by the Defence Technology Review.

“The design and construction of the island reef projects was carried out against a tight deadline and without long-term, in-depth scientific evaluations.”

He went on to say that within less than three years’ time, concrete structures began to disintegrate and metallic equipment lost functionality within a year. The reason for the rapid corrosion can be attributed to the elements on the island, which rotate between high solar radiation, humidity, salty air, fog and high temperatures.

With corrosion issues developing into safety hazards, concerns remain over if the islands and facilities would be able to endure extreme weather or a natural disaster. Operation and maintenance costs also began to increase as a result of the rapid corrosion.

According to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, China paid $300 billion in 2014, or roughly 3% of its gross domestic product, on corrosion. The Pentagon reports that the U.S. spends $21 billion on military corrosion protection per year.

The Research

Having been successful in protecting pipelines from corrosion against intense heat, high pressure and acid, the graphene coating has yet to be approved for use in China’s military. However, the same unnamed researcher reports that the coatings have already been applied in the civilian sector.

The current production lines are working to develop a coating that can meet the demand and withstand the harsh conditions in the South China Sea. However, because pure graphene serves a dual purpose as an energy conductor, any cracks or scratches in the coating would be just as easily subjected to accelerated corrosion because of the electrical current.

To avoid the coating’s fault, researchers are blending the graphene with other materials to reduce conductivity. Unfortunately, researchers say that choosing the right materials isn’t easy, and according to Cui Gan, an associate professor at the college of pipeline and civil engineering at China University of Petroleum, mass production of thin carbon flakes could prove problematic as they tend to get tangled together.

Once development and testing has commenced, China's military plans to use the coating on fighter jets and aircraft carriers.

   

Tagged categories: AS; China; Coating Materials; Colleges and Universities; Corrosion protection; Graphene; Infrastructure; Protective coatings; Protective Coatings; Research; Research and development; Rust

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