COLUMBUS, OH - Battelle researchers have come up with a smart coating that can reveal where corrosion is forming on metal even though one can’t see the degradation with the naked eye.
Ramanathan Lalgudi, a Principal Research Scientist, and Barry McGraw, a Program Manager, who work in Battelle’s Advanced Materials Applications Department, were working on a nanomaterial project when a new application for their work jumped out at them.
They were attaching groups of chemicals on the surface of nanomaterials and studying their effectiveness towards the environment. That led to the idea of using the same technical approach to detect corrosion. What if the corrosion product on a material could react with the functional nanomaterials?
The research resulted in an early corrosion detection method. The scientists created a smart coating derived from the functional nanomaterial that could be applied between a primer and topcoat and fluoresces once a corrosion product is generated from the metal. In this case, the metal is aluminum, but the chemistry can be tweaked for other metals.
The innovation will be invaluable for many industries. Any metal object begins to falter as it corrodes. The Department of Defense estimates that corrosion of its equipment costs $10 to $20 billion per year. If one can repair metal before it is demonstrably compromised, the savings could be astronomical in terms of time, energy, material and money.
Lalgudi said the smart coating could even be married to a primer or integrated with the scanning device. Battelle has a provisional patent for the intellectual property. Though the material is two to three years away from commercialization, Lalgudi and McGraw and their business line colleagues are seeking partners to help take it to market.
Battelle is the world’s largest non-profit independent research and development organization. It provides solutions through its four global businesses: Laboratory Management, National Security, Energy Technology, and Health and Life Sciences.