The Eastern Michigan University faculty-student research team at Coatings Research Institute in the GameAbove College of Engineering and Technology has been awarded a U.S. patent for the invention of “organic-inorganic hybrid polymeric compositions, related articles, and methods.” This is their third patent for organic-inorganic hybrid materials. 

According to Vijay Mannari, director of Coatings Research Institute at EMU, the invention of the composition can potentially replace hazardous heavy metals used in the metal finishing industry. The concepts within the patent are also advancing 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 Mannari. “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.” 

In 2006, with a funding award from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, Mannari started exploring organic-inorganic hybrid coatings. Throughout his exploration, his team developed hex-chrome-free organic-inorganic hybrid coatings. The hex-chrome-free organic-inorganic hybrid (OIH) coatings showed comparable performance to those based on hex-chrome, a carcinogenic compound. According to Mannari, this success ignited the exploration of other innovative applications of 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.” 

EMU alumnus Himanshu Manchanda conducted early studies on ultraviolet-curable organic-inorganic hybrid chemistry and compositions, while EMU alumnus Hamid Asemani completed many investigations on the deposition of OIH coatings and studied the corrosion resistance performance of these OIH coatings. The combined discovery by Mannari, Manchanda, and Asemani opened opportunities for tailoring the precursors for OIH materials at molecular scales. These OIH films can be deposited as thin as two to five micrometers and up to 50 micrometers thick. This leaves 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 received inquiries from a few industries for customizing organic-inorganic hybrid coatings for specific end-use applications. 

“I am thankful to Wade Tornquist and the Office of Research Development team for their continuous encouragement and support. Also, thanks to Dean Qatu and the then school directors Bob Lahidji and Phil Rufe for their support and facilitation of my efforts at Coatings Research Institute,” Mannari said.

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