Corrosion causes a lot of expensive and dangerous problems in structures, equipment, and other applications. That’s why there is so much value in the successful development of anti-corrosive technology and treatments that enhance corrosion resistance.
Most often, corrosion is countered by utilizing materials that offer built-in resistance through a chemical or alloying process, like that used to create stainless steel. Even materials that have a tendency to rust, oxidize, or corrode when subjected to certain conditions can be made more resistant with coatings, finishes, and various treatments. Examples of this can be found on bacoent.com, where construction fasteners are available with many different types of anti-corrosive properties.
Anti-corrosive coatings are a reliable solution in many cases but they aren’t a be-all-end-all solution in all applications. In some cases, protective coatings can break down or wear off, which is a problem that materials scientists, chemists, and other professionals work hard to solve.
Recently, MIT researchers have found a way to enhance the endurance of anti-corrosive coatings. By coating a surface with very thin layers of metal oxide, they have created a shifting, self-healing coating that will actually fill in cracks and gaps as they occur. This layered coating behaves like a liquid that self-levels and blocks external conditions from causing corrosion.
Using aluminum oxide, chromium oxide, and silicon dioxide in extremely thin layers and observing them under specialized instruments, the researchers looked at how the coatings protected a bare metal surface in highly corrosive testing environments. They found that using aluminum oxide in a layer that was roughly three nanometers thick resulted in a liquid-like effect that essentially filled cracks and gaps as they occurred, even at room temperature.
According to the research team, this is the first time the self-correcting coating effect was observed at a near-atomic level resolution. The unique observational conditions provided new insight into just how ductile metal oxide can be when such a thin layer is applied, and how that arrangement serves to protect an underlying material from exposure to corrosion and oxidation.
The findings could contribute to numerous types of corrosion resistance measures and techniques. They also stand to provide substantial benefits when fighting damage and deterioration caused by various types of corrosion. Perhaps an ultra-thin layer of aluminum oxide will become the go-to solution for creating self-healing, highly resistant treatments on industrial materials, products, and components.