Researchers at the Universitat Jaume I of Castelló (UJI), Spain, have patented a new test method that determines the anticorrosion protection that an organic coating offers in much less time than other conventional methods. This new system cuts anticorrosion experiments with paints from 20 days to 24 hours. This is a significant advance as it helps to cut losses due to corrosion which lead to an estimated worldwide loss of capital of some 300,000 million euros each year.
The patent will be issued through the spin-off firm Medco S.L. at Espaitec, UJI’s Technology Park. The technology officer of this university partner firm, Maria José Gimeno, explains that “presently, these anticorrosion experiments with paints introduce the use of a metal plate which has been previously grazed in a saline mist chamber to subsequently verify its influence; in other words, to see whether the paint protects the metal plate or not”.
These tests are regulated (ISO 7253) and last approximately 20 days. The revolutionary proposal put forward by the UJI-based firm is based, instead, on electrochemical techniques. “What we are suggesting is an accelerated equivalent: we submit the plate not only to a saline solution but also to a series of electrochemical experiments. The degradation of the metal is accelerated by means of a tension/relaxation cycle. In this way, any possible coating failures are rapidly detected, for example, the appearance of deformed laminations and blistering. We obtain the results of the corrosion resistance analysis in 24 hours”.
Thanks to this drastic reduction from days to hours, the paint formulation system obtains the end product much earlier as the technique allows many tests to be done in a short time. This is particularly relevant for industry because current legislation enforces that solvent-based paints have to become water-based paints in order to avoid volatile emissions. Likewise, this process provides qualitative data in terms of the coating failure mode. Such information is not shown in experiments using a traditional saline mist chamber, but is most interesting for paint and lacquer producers and also for the aeronautics, automobile and construction sectors.
Researcher Julio José Suay Antón of UJI’s Materials Department has led this research work. Medco S.L. was constituted in 2006 at Espaitec’s Incubation Unit thanks to the technique developed by the University. The intention is to offer a counselling and consultancy service for producers and users of organic coatings, like paint, to protect against metal corrosion. Besides, two other services have been considered: sporadic 24-hours experiments to check a coating’s anticorrosive properties and the sale of the electrochemical equipment that the firm has developed.
In 2008, the firm participated in two National R&D&I Collaborative Applied Research projects and did a series of anticorrosion protection tests for the paint systems which Airbus uses with its planes. Among this firm’s customers, the Valencian aluminium firm BAUX, and the Dutch paint producer SigmaKalon (which now belongs to PPG), stand out. It also collaborates with ASESAN (the Spanish Anodising Association, ASELAC (the Spanish Lacquer Producers Association) and AETEPA (the Spanish Association of Paints and Related Products).
Although this new system enables the obtained result to be translated into the test language normally used in industry, the people in charge at the firm are working on standardising its technique and obtaining the corresponding international recognition. Another of the short-term objectives is to continue to actively collaborate with the academic world. Currently, the firm has signed a research project with the Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering Centre (CBIT) at the Polytechnic University of Valencia and with the Rovira i Virgili University of Tarragona for the period 2008-2010. Other projects have been signed with the Carlos III University of Madrid and the National Centre of Metallurgy Research (CENIM) which belongs to the CSIC (the Spanish National Research Council).
The spin-off firm’s mid- and long-term objectives include offering an all-round service for its customers by developing coatings with even better anticorrosion protection than the currently available ones and to also design data processing software for non-experts in electrochemistry to manage test results.
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