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Coatings for the future: technology in action.

Significant research and development efforts at national labs and funding from government agencies lead to important advances in technology. Companies with the ability to leverage those advances into practical products and processes that can be commercialized and used in the marketplace play a special role in bringing industry into the future. MesoCoat Inc. is one of those firms. The company is developing two coatings technology platforms that offer solutions to troublesome issues.

The first technology is MesoCoat's PComP[TM] life extending nanocomposite cermet coating materials. These are composed of metal nitrides and carbides in a ceramic base that are used to protect metals from corrosion, wear, and erosion. These materials are nano-structured ceramic-metal (cermet) composites formed with a nanocomposite core and binder coating, which are made using a combination of low friction, high wear resistant, and excellent corrosion resistant materials. The nanocomposite core provides the high wear resistance, low friction, and light weight, and the binders provide the corrosion resistance, toughness, ductility, resiliency, and improved deposition efficiency, according to president and CEO Andrew J. Sherman. The PComP family of coating materials has been designed to act as drop-in replacements for thermal spray powders and will work with today's existing application systems. PComPs are applied using a thermal spray process at anywhere from 3 to 30 mils in thickness, and then can be finished using conventional grinding methods instead of an expensive diamond grinding process.

Most importantly, these coatings are an ideal replacement for the carcinogenic hexavalent chrome plating process. "Our PComP coatings last up to 10 times longer than carbide and hard chrome coatings in sliding wear applications because of extremely low coefficients of friction combined with high hardness," explains Sherman.


PComP cermet coatings have been engineered for high-wear equipment rebuilding applications. In addition, because they can be applied with a thermal spray process and can be ground using conventional methods, they are a drop-in replacement for hexavaient chromium and tungsten carbide cobalt. Other benefits include faster application times, lower density, ease of machining, and minimal byproduct formation.

Funding for the development of these coatings came in part from an ArmySBIR program. The Department of Defense is particularly interested in environmentally and economically sound alternatives to hard chrome plating, which is a $3.2 billion industry, since recent changes in federal acquisition regulations have banned the purchase of systems and components which have been treated using hexavalent chrome plating techniques, according to Sherman. This need is growing as military assets continue to age yet remain in service for longer and longer periods.

PComP coatings are expected to find use in military applications such as aircraft materials, landing gear, rail guns, bearings, military vehicles, ship structures, and general Industrial applications where rubbing of metal parts causes wear, such as pump shafts and hydraulic seals, and also wherever hexavalent chrome plating is used today.

The second technology platform is a surface engineering technology licensed from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) that enables the application of corrosion and wear resistant materials at rates one to two orders of magnitude faster than alternate processes such as laser or weld cladding or furnace processing, offers better metallurgical properties, and is cost competitive. "This High Speed Fusion Cladding process (CermaClad[TM]) can rapidly fuse corrosion and wear resistant alloys, metal, and ceramic materials on steel pipes, plates, and bars with a true metallurgical bond," Sherman explains. "We are also excited about this technology because it enables cost-effective cladding of very large areas such as pipes and tubes, ship decks, building supports, reactor vessels, and equipment and bridges, which is not possible using conventional processes. The speed of this process ensures that metal cladding can match the line speed of steel mills and reduce lead times for clad pipes and tubes by 75-80%. Experts estimate that a less expensive and faster cladding process will increase the global metal cladding market by 100% over the next three years from $3.8 billion to $7.6 billion." He also notes that this increase will be driven by significant investments being made by oil and gas companies in deep water projects.

The new process has an attractive environmental profile. Even though a much more intense energy source is used compared to that required in conventional processes, the greater productivity results in reduction of energy use by 50%. Furthermore, it is a dry process that gives off no toxic byproducts and generates no waste. Finally, the metal cladding lasts three to five times longer than organic-based protective coating systems but costs only 20-30% more, according to Sherman.

MesoCoat has installed its own lab-scale CermaClad[TM] equipment, which is currently being scaled-up. However, for larger scale demonstration and validation work, MesoCoat has signed a Space Act agreement with NASA Glenn Research Center to access its higher power equipment until it has its own facilities. The NASA system was originally developed as an imitation solar source for materials testing. MesoCoat was scheduled to break ground in February 2011 on a new production plant for commercialization of the CermaClad process.


Separately, MesoCoat, along with The Edison Materials Technology Center (EMTEC) and Polythermics LLC, has received $1.79 million in funding from the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop this technology into a system that can be used in the field. The goal is to develop portable equipment that can utilize the high-intensity infrared light technology to apply nanocomposite cermets and polymer coatings onto steel surfaces as alternatives to conventional electroplating, chromate primers, hot-dip galvanizing, and fusion-bonded epoxies.

"We are interested in taking this technology into the field to replace typical three layer protective coating systems based on a zinc-rich or similar type primer, epoxy intermediate coat, and a topcoat with two and possibly one layer systems. The result would be reduced consumption of chemicals, reduced VOC emissions, and less waste," observes Sherman.

In yet another project, MesoCoat is partnering with the NASA Glenn Research Center to develop thermal barrier coatings (TBCs) for jet, gas, and turbine engines. The technology was first developed by NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC) scientist Dongming Zhu. The coatings incorporate cluster formations that inhibit radiation transfer and improve the coating's stability and result in coatings with about half the thermal conductivity of conventional thermal barriers, according to Sherman. The technology was recognized by R&D Magazine in 2007 with an "R&D 100" award as one of the year's 100 most technologically noteworthy inventions and appeared in the annual NASA Spinoff Magazine as one of the most compelling technological developments of 2010.


By reducing thermal conductivity, the new TBCs reduce the engine part temperature, smooth out thermal cycles, and eliminate many of the stresses to which the parts are typically exposed. The result is longer component life, improved fuel economy, and better operating efficiency.

Through a collaborative agreement with Glenn and under contract with the U.S. Air Force, MesoCoat is employing a specific composition of Zhu's TBC technology, branded ZComP 844, to prolong the lifespan of engines in the Air Force's aging, legacy aircraft. The company is also engaged in discussions for commercial licensing terms in order to develop products for non-military applications.

"At MesoCoat, our goal is to develop cleaner, better, faster, and cost-competitive technology solutions for protecting metal structures of all types," Sherman states. "We are initially focusing on selected niche applications where we have verified performance, productivity, and cost benefits with industry leaders in the oil and gas, aerospace and defense, infrastructure, and marine industries, but we plan to move to broader markets and address the needs of OEMs and MROs (maintenance and repair organizations) in the transportation, construction, mining, utilities, and agricultural equipment markets. We are committed to providing high value, environmentally friendly metal coating and cladding solutions that will help address critical issues for our customers," he concludes.
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Publication:JCT CoatingsTech
Date:Apr 1, 2011
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