Researchers Awarded Patent for Metal Coating


A research team from Eastern Michigan University was recently awarded a U.S. patent for their invention of Organic-Inorganic Hybrid (OIH) coating methods to potentially replace hazardous heavy metals in the metal finishing industry.

The patent, “Organic-Inorganic Hybrid Polymeric compositions, related articles, and methods,” is the third for OIH materials from the university’s Coatings Research Institute in the GameAbove College of Engineering and Technology team.

The patent also conceptualizes the development of 3D-printing materials and solving the challenges of conventional materials and processes.

“This invention demonstrates our contribution to advancement in material science and engineering,” said Vijay Mannari, Director of Coatings Research Institute at EMU. “It’s extraordinary because the two co-inventors were students at the time of its invention.

“This innovation is an amazing example of what students can do when appropriately mentored, encouraged, empowered, and enabled.” 

Mannari reportedly began exploring OIH coatings after receiving funding from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory in 2006. According to the release, through this exploration, his team was able to develop hex-chrome free OIH coatings.

“Excited by the success we had developing hex-chrome free OIH coatings, I started exploring other innovative applications of where such coatings can find suitable applications,” said Mannari.

“After several years of work by my graduate students, we invented a novel, efficient, and sustainable route for deposition of OIH coatings using ultraviolet light radiation.” 

Then, EMU alumnus Himanshu Manchanda reportedly conducted early studies on ultraviolet-curable OIH chemistry and compositions. Fellow alumnus Hamid Asemani completed many investigations on the deposition of OIH coatings and studied the corrosion resistance performance of these OIH coatings.

Using findings from all three researchers, the team was able to tailor the precursors for the OIH materials at molecular scales. EMU reports that these OIH films can be deposited as thin as two to five micrometers and up to 50 micrometers thick, leaving room for many advanced applications. 

“I am looking forward to possibilities of licensing our patent by industries for commercial applications that will enhance the environmental sustainability of their products,” Mannari said. 

Since the publication of that patent, Mannari has reportedly received inquiries from a few industries for customizing OIH coatings for specific end-use applications. 

Previous Coatings Research

Back in 2016, Mannari secured funding to develop environmentally responsible, but high-performance coatings for U.S. military aircraft and shipboard surfaces.

He was awarded a $529,000 grant through the Strategic Environmental Research Development Program (SERDP), an interagency organization that identifies and develops environmental technologies that directly relate to defense mission readiness.

The SERDP selected Mannari for funding based on his research proposal titled "Non-Isocyanate Polyurethane Platform for Sustainable and Advanced Rain Erosion Resistant Coatings.”

Mannari’s inspiration for the SERDP project stemmed from the fact that, at the time, the Department of Defense relied on polyurethane coatings for many of its applications because of their ability to meet the military’s strict on-site application/curing and performance requirements.

However, these erosion-resistant coatings have high volatile organic compound (VOC) and hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions and use hazardous and toxic isocyanate compounds, he explained. These compounds are toxic and very hazardous for human health and safety.

Modern water-borne polyurethane coatings, which boast significantly lower VOCs and HAPs, aren’t acceptable for DOD use because of their inefficient film formation. Additionally, their longer drying times mean they can’t be used for multi-coat on-site applications and ambient cure conditions, the proposal noted.

By leveraging alternative chemistry and customizing formulations, Mannari planned to lead his group not only to develop isocyanate-free polyurethane coatings, but to develop coatings with significantly lower VOCs that will cure in a much shorter time compared to those currently being used in industry.

Specifically, the team would work on developing two distinct types of coating systems—a two-component high-solids non-isocyanate polyurethane (NIPU) coating and a 100 percent solid UV-curable NIPU coating—that will be spray applied on-site and cured using portable UV sources, according to the proposal.

UV-curable coatings have not previously been used for such military applications but can now be used because of the commercial availability of portable UV-cure equipment, Mannari explained.

Finally, as part of the project, Mannari’s team would also prepare a strategic transition plan to put this new coating technology to work in the field through cooperative development with the industrial partners and the end-user DOD sites, he wrote.


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