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Coating in Development for Rope Safety

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

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Researchers at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) are working on developing a coating that changes color when exposed to high temperatures through friction or fire.

The technology is being developed for rope fibers, to be used in safety gear or for lifting heavy construction loads.

Empa

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) are working on developing a coating that changes color when exposed to high temperatures through friction or fire.

“High-performance fibers that have been exposed to high temperatures usually lose their mechanical properties undetected and, in the worst case, can tear precisely when lives depend on them,” the lab noted.

The Technology

Researchers from Empa and ETH Zurich began developing the coating system in 2018 as part of a master’s thesis at the time. Now, a team led by Dirk Hegemann from Empa's Advances Fibers lab, has adapted the coating for application to fibers.

According to Empa, three layers are required to ensure the fibers change color. First, researchers apply silver to the rope itself (for Empa’s research the rope is made from polyester an VectranTM, a high-tech fiber). The silver serves as a metallic base layer.

Then, the rope is coated with an intermediate layer of titanium nitrogen oxide, which is used to ensure that the silver remains stable.

Finally, germanium-antimony tellurium is applied at just 20 nanometers thick. When this later is exposed to elevated temperatures or friction, it crystallizes, changing the color from blue to white. The chemical composition of this layer can be adjusted to temperatures ranging between 100 and 400 degrees C and can be adapted to the properties of the fiber as well as the job it’s needed for.

While in the current state Empa says that the principle is proven to work, further research needs conducted as it isn’t yet possible to store the coated fibers for a long period of time.

Over the course of a few months, the changing materials oxides and can no longer produce the crystallization “warning signal.”

Hegemann says that they are looking for interested industry partners so that they can further optimize the product.

   

Tagged categories: Coatings; Coatings Technology; Coatings Technology; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); EU; Health and safety; Research and development; Rope access; Safety

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