New approaches to corrosion protection are called for. Legal requirements and regulations, as well as the demand for quality, efficiency and the ability to plan concepts, are forcing us to change our way of thinking. Researchers at Fraunhofer IPA have addressed the following questions:
What are the alternatives to zinc-based anticorrosives?
How can corrosion protection be improved? How can it be detected at an early stage or even avoided altogether?
The answer is Smart Steel, a Fraunhofer IPA patented technology which not only ensures dependable, zinc-free corrosion protection, but also enables steel surfaces to be continuously monitored.
During the development of the technology, the aspect of weather- and use-related abrasion of microplastics, for example by shipping and freight traffic in waterways, was given top priority. With regard to avoid ecologically questionable, zinc-based corrosion protection, the Graphene Rich Primer meets high material conformity standards (REAcH specifications), thus making it a future-proof corrosion protection technology.
The exceptional conductivity of the graphene-enriched functional coating is the key to the smart corrosion protection. By measuring the discharge of oxygen from the metal surface and using the principle of electrical polarization, conclusions about the corrosion process can be drawn early on.
The core of the technology is the Graphene Rich Primer, which consists of two functional filler components and a matrix polymer as binder. The first filler component is carbon flakes, which give the coating the most important feature of any protective coating - its hydrophobicity, i.e. a reduced ability to absorb and retain water. At the same time, the carbon flakes make the surface electrically conductive to a certain degree.
The second functional component is carbon nanotubes. These make the surface even more electrically conductive, which has several advantages - the oxygen discharged from the metal surface can be transferred to the surface of the primer by cathodic delamination. Measuring the discharge of oxygen as a harbinger of corrosion makes it possible to predict the onset of the corrosion process at an early stage, and also allows coated surfaces to be monitored continuously.
The combination of both functional fillers makes Smart Steel suitable for all corrosion protection applications.
The technology is based on three phases. The first phase enhances the “passive” anti-corrosive effect through polarization. In the second phase, the extended use of the technology enables the corrosion risk to be continuously monitored as a result of the adapted polarization. The third phase of the Smart Steel technology is the high-end application of corrosion protection in the form of early corrosion detection, i.e. “active” corrosion protection through 'predictive maintenance'.
Under the terms of an individual licensing agreement, users can take advantage of the patented Smart Steel technology (Graphene Rich Primer) developed by Fraunhofer IPA. Licensing is generally possible on a territory, product or application-specific basis, or in combination. The time frame for using the technology is also arranged individually.
Europe (granted in EP 3 865 545 B1 since Nov,10th 2021):
Asia (still under final review):
Are you interested in using Smart Steel technology? We would be happy to arrange individual use and licensing with you. Give us a call or send us an email. We are looking forward to hearing from you.