University Opens Carbon to Metal Coating Institute
Queen’s University in Canada launched its new Carbon to Metal Coating Institute (C2MCI) last month, with a goal of coming up with a solution to protect critical metals from corrosion. The international interdisciplinary team will be led by Canada Research Chair in Metal Organic Chemistry and professor in the Department of Chemistry Cathleen Crudden.
According to the university, the institute’s novel approach to protecting metal surfaces relies on a molecular primer capable of slowing or preventing oxidation and ultimately, degradation of metals. C2MCI is a result of a government grant received by the university at the beginning of the year.
New Frontiers Grant
In January, the Government of Canada awarded $24 million to Queen’s University to research and develop carbon-to-metal coatings to protect metal surfaces from corrosion. The funding is part of the Transformation Stream of the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF), which has awarded $144 million in grants over six years to Canadian-led research teams.
The project builds on Queen’s chemistry researcher Crudden’s previous discovery that a certain class of organic molecules can form bonds with a wide range of metals. The research team planned explore and develop a carbon-on-metal coating to slow or halt corrosion caused by oxygen, changes in pH and temperature.
??— NSERC / CRSNG (@NSERC_CRSNG) June 14, 2022
A #NFRF Transformation research team is working on how chemistry could transform the world’s metals industry and lead to new cancer-fighting technologies.
Learn how it started ? https://t.co/N7pOeRbMjI@queensu @cathleencrudden @cmc_lab@SSHRC_CRSH @CIHR_IRSC @InnovationCA pic.twitter.com/dQuiKQIuJq
Queen’s University also teamed up with other project co-principal investigators Western University, Concordia University, McGill University, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and University Health Networks, in addition to many international co-applicants and industrial collaborators.
“Worldwide, countries spend, on average, over 3% of their GDP each year on corrosion maintenance. Annually, Canada spends around $66 billion across sectors,” said Dr. Crudden, professor and Canada Research Chair in Metal Organic Chemistry. “With new strategies, like the innovative coatings we are developing, we could save governments, taxpayers and industries up to 25% of this cost.”
Researchers hope that these coatings will be used in a variety of day-to-day applications, including:
According to the university, the development of the new coating could also help put Canada at the forefront of the barrier coatings industry, that currently has a national economic impact of $31 billion per year and employs 211,000 people across the country. The funding will be distributed to recipients over a six-year period. Crudden plans on hiring approximately 14 students and post-doctoral fellows to assist with the research.
About the Research
The aim of C2MCI is to develop coating materials that will enhance the stability of metals used for transportation and energy infrastructure (macro), microelectronics technology (micro) and precision therapeutics (nano). This will reportedly reduce construction and maintenance costs, open new avenues for manufacturing and lead to the production of safer precision therapeutics.
According to the Government of Canada, the organic molecule works as a thin layer, binding to a metal surface and changing its properties. This coating could then protect metals from the environment, resulting in a more durable product with an expected longer lifespan.
“Think of a car or a pipeline,” Crudden said in an interview. “The exterior is oxide, it is metal, it is inorganic. If you want to paint it or you want to protect it from rust, you’re putting something organic on top and, like oil and water, they just don’t mix. What we’re trying to do is change the surface of the metal so that it looks organic, and the paint is, like, ‘Yes, this is where I want to be.’”
“Corrosion is a problem that you are stuck with, costing Canadians $66 billion dollars a year,” said Janine Mauzeroll, one of the project’s co-principal investigators and a professor at McGill University in Montréal. “Basically, we’re wasting 3.4% of our GDP every year on maintaining and replacing metals. If we just improve metal coatings, we’d be able to save 25% of that $66 billion a year. That’s a lot of money.”
A major part of the NFRF Transformation funding will reportedly allow the team to investigate the best processes to apply the coating, and how to make it easily accessible to manufacturers worldwide. They will also test the longevity of the technology and work with industry leaders to figure out how to produce it on a large enough scale to meet demand.
The new research could potentially lead to more resilient infrastructure for transportation and green energy, supporting Canada’s transition towards a more environmentally friendly economy. Additionally, these more resilient metals are expected to reduce the demand for metal extraction processes, lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
The team also hopes to minimize leaching of contaminants into the environment from corroding metals.
“The launch of this Institute is very exciting,” said Queen’s Principal Patrick Deane at the May 25 launch event. “The research associated with it will be truly transformative. This will have a positive impact on our environment and helps deliver on the university’s commitment to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.”
Queen’s University reports that potential applications of the new method include designing new microelectronics manufacturing processes to prevent the breakdown of microchips in electronic devices such as computers and phones, and improving precision, safety and effectiveness of nanomedicine therapies, such as cancer treatment.
If implemented, the coatings could reportedly help save billions across industries each year.
“Chemists have known for a long time that carbon-metal bonds can be very strong, but our group at Queen’s was the first one to look at whether this works to create strong coatings on metal surfaces as well,” said Dr. Crudden. “This work was called game-changing by chemistry and physics experts.”
Crudden also emphasized the importance of collaborating with other clinical and industry partners, allowing the coatings work to move from lab research to real-world trials, then large scale production. The program has partners from Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Finland and Sweden.
According to the university, C2MCI will provide the team with the administrative infrastructure to advance research, develop high qualified personnel and support the international network of collaborators. It will also provide interdisciplinary and international training opportunities for undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate students.
The institute also has an allocated budget to foster equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives to engage students from equity deserving groups. “We believe EDI is essential for a successful project,” said Dr. Crudden.