'Smart Release' Coating Holds Off Rust

FRIDAY, JUNE 17, 2016

Researchers at a university in Wales have developed a “smart release” coating that could serve as a potential alternative to the use of hexavalent chromium as a corrosion inhibitor.

The work of the Swansea University team, led by Professor Geraint Williams, is said to provide a safer, smarter way of protecting steel from rust and corrosion, the university announced Wednesday (June 15).

Their breakthrough comes at an important time, the university notes, as hexavalent chromium, the corrosion inhibitor used most widely at this time, is scheduled to be banned across the European Union in 2019.

Corrosion inhibitors are commonly used in a wide range of applications, including coated steel products used in building construction, as well as the aerospace, aircraft and automotive industries.

‘On-Demand’ Protection

Patrick Dodds, a graduate student in the school’s College of Engineering, is credited with discovering the material and manufacturing process for a smart release coating said to outperform hexavalent chromium in laboratory tests.

The team’s method involves a stored reservoir of corrosion inhibitor. By channeling aggressive electrolyte anions (negatively charged ions) into the coating, the release of the inhibitor is triggered “on demand” in order to prevent corrosion, it explains.

“This is a significant breakthrough, showing a smarter and safer way of reducing corrosion,” says Williams, the university’s corrosion expert. 

“The new product is environmentally sound, economical and outperforms the market leader in laboratory tests,” he adds.

The new method is expected to provide a boost to the steel industry, helping it to produce high-quality steel that meets the highest performance and safety standards.

Process Testing

According to the researchers, the product outperformed hexavalent chromium in salt spray testing, the standard test for corrosion.

Swansea test surface

A steel panel with the new anti-corrosion treatment is shown here after being exposed to hundreds of hours of salt spray; it shows virtually no signs of corrosion, the researchers note.

The team used a purpose-built scanning Kelvin probe, which can detect the state of the metal beneath a coating without touching it. The custom system allowed them to test different products much more quickly—within 24 hours, as opposed to the standard 500-hour window, they explained.

“The system has been shown to prevent the onset of corrosion for over 24 hours compared to less than 2 hours for the current market leader,” says Dodds, who also works for Tata Steel.

“We have also been able to demonstrate that the rate of corrosion can be slowed down significantly once it has started,” he notes.

“This is by far the best result seen in 15 years of research on this topic.”

Prize-Winning Discovery

The discovery won the team a Materials Science Venture Prize of £25,000 (about $35,500), awarded by The Worshipful Company of Armourers and Brasiers, presented at the University of Cambridge.

The Venture Prize was developed to help innovative materials science research make it to market by providing direct financial support for the commercialization phase.

“This is a significant discovery and shows how the U.K. is still a driving innovation force in industry,” says Bill Bonfield, chairman of the Armourers and Brasiers Venture Prize judging panel.

“Our prize looks to encourage scientific entrepreneurship in the U.K. and provide funding, which is often difficult to source, to help discoveries like this realise their potential.”

The Swansea team plans to use the prize money to buy a Jet Mill system, a tool for overcoming the last technical barriers on the way to making the product available on the market, the university says.

The school reports that initial discussions with industry have been “extremely positive.”


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Coating chemistry; Coating Materials; Coatings Technology; Colleges and Universities; Corrosion control coatings; Corrosion protection; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Hexavalent chromium; Latin America; North America; Research and development; Rust; Smart coatings; Steel

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