A novel rust-proofing technique that acts like a protective barrier against the elements on steel may be on the horizon!
Researchers at the University at Buffalo have made significant progress in developing a non-toxic method of combating rust by using a graphene-based composite.
This can serve as an eco-friendly alternative for hexavalent chromium coatings that involves toxic chemicals.
Professor Sarbajit Banerjee and PhD student Robert Dennis from the University at Buffalo, the UB chemists leading the project stated, “Our product can be made to work with the existing hardware of many factories that specialize in chrome electroplating, including job shops in Western New York that grew around Bethlehem Steel.
“This could give factories a chance to reinvent themselves in a healthy way in a regulatory environment that is growing increasingly harsh when it comes to chromium pollution.”
"The development of an environment friendly alternative to hexavalent chromium would truly revolutionize this sector.-- Anahita Williamson, director of the NYSP2I
The researchers started dabbling with a polymer composite that contains graphene. The miracle material that comprises a single layer of carbon atoms is highly condusive and thought to be completely impermeable to water.
Such a combination would obviously make it an extremely effective barrier against water and stall the electrochemical reactions that oxidize iron to make rust.
In the first phase of the experiment the scientists painted some steel with the high-tech varnish and dipped it in salt water, an environment that hastens rust formation. They noted that the steel pieces remained rust-free for a few days.
They then adjusted the concentration and dispersion of graphene within the composite, which helped the treated steel to survive for over a month in brine.
$50,000 grant from NYSP2I
The duo, now want to enhance the graphene composite's lasting power and the quality of its finish.
Though the technique shows promise, it will take a few years before the grapheme-based coating is available for commercialization. According to them, the technique once in the market will benefit public health and also save jobs.
The scientists have been financially supported by Tata steel for their venture and have also received $50,000 grant from the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I) for their project.
Anahita Williamson, director of the NYSP2I, a research and technology transfer center funded by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation said, "The development of an environment friendly alternative to hexavalent chromium would truly revolutionize this sector.
"The metal plating industry identified this as a high-priority research project and NYSP2I is excited to support UB researchers in their efforts to develop solutions."