Metal corrosion is a crucial problem for technical systems, such as cars, ships, and airplanes, and infrastructure objects, such as bridges, power line towers, and cellular towers. Their collapse can lead to significant losses and threaten safety, making development of new ways to combat corrosion a vital task. Researchers at the Saint Petersburg Electrotechnical University, LETI, have developed a “digital twin” that will form the basis for creating energy-efficient equipment for applying protective coatings to metal structures of any size using strong electromagnetic fields.

One of the most effective methods of applying corrosion protection coatings is thermal diffusion galvanizing. It can be used to coat metal with a thin layer of zinc (no more than 150 microns), which is firmly embedded into the material structure and significantly increases the durability of steel and cast-iron products in aggressive environments, such as cold, humidity, and seawater. However, the technological process is difficult to control, especially when coating large objects. In addition, the environmental conditions in which galvanizing is performed, such as high temperature and pressure, must be maintained. These factors lead to a higher cost and longer duration of the production of these coatings and materials.

"We have developed a digital twin of the system (i.e. a software analog of a real device) for thermal diffusion galvanizing, in which the galvanizing process takes place under the influence of an induction magnetic field. This software makes it possible to forecast the performance of this equipment during all phases of the life cycle. With the help of this digital design technology, it is possible to optimize and speed up the creation of the equipment. Once it is up and running, the digital twin will help the operator know exactly what is going on inside the reactor and easily control the coating process," said Yury Perevalov, associate professor in the Department of Department of Electrical Technology and Converter Engineering at LETI.

Scientists have now begun to create a mockup of the installation based on the developed digital twin to test the system in real life. The proposed version of the technology will make it possible to coat metal parts and structures of almost any size. It became possible due to the application of electromagnetic fields in the process of coating creation.

To create an electromagnetic field with the necessary characteristics, the system will include a special inductor. It will create and direct the electromagnetic field to the reactor of the system, where metal parts, such as plates, bolts, and screws, and the mixture for thermophoresis galvanizing will be fed. In this case, the technology of electromagnetic field application at a temperature up to 500 ℃ makes it possible to coat almost any size structure with zinc with minimal energy and material consumption. The process of controlling the system and maintaining the necessary environment for galvanizing will be carried out using the digital twin. "The technology is of great interest for corrosion protection of large metal structures: ship hulls and components of pipelines," said Perevalov.

The researchers believe that in the future, the technology can be used not only for applying anticorrosive compositions but also for shock-resistant, heat-resistant, and even anti-radiation coatings. The digital twin will make it possible to quickly adapt the system to work with different types of coatings.

Source: Saint Petersburg Electrotechnical University, LETI.