This strategy of reusing existing scrap materials is one of the advantages of the project – while zinc continues to be widely used to protect steel from corrosion and is highly effective, it is also difficult to recycle.
“ALCOAT will address a sustainability issue rather than a performance problem,” Cole said.
“Using existing scrap materials will prevent the energy-intensive process of mining and processing virgin zinc and the associated negative costs to the environment.”
The ALCOAT coatings will be used in the protection of wind towers, ships and other structures exposed to sea water and atmosphere as well as steel sheet products for automotive, building and home appliance industries.
RMIT is leading the computational modelling for in silica design of the coating; the model will integrate numerous multi-scale approaches based on material modelling, led by RMIT, and molecular chemistry, led by the Institut Català de Nanociència i Nanotecnologia (ICN2) in Barcelona.
“Compared to traditional coating development processes, the procedure proposed by ALCOAT is highly innovative and advanced and will ensure a dramatic shortening of the development process and reduce costs,” Cole said.
The aluminium alloy coatings developed by the project are expected to have several advantages, such as a lower corrosion rate and a reduced risk of hydrogen embrittlement, which can occur with zinc coatings of high strength steels.
They will also be lighter, thinner and more sustainable given the reduction in the quantity of primary raw materials required, thereby also boosting efforts in the circular economy.
It is expected that ALCOAT will contribute to improvements in the safety of steel constructions and provide a powerful tool to enhance other metal coating systems for material protection.
RMIT Europe is currently advertising a Barcelona-based Postdoctoral Research Fellow to work on the ALCOAT project – applications close on 11 June.
ALCOAT is coordinated by the University of Chemistry and Technology Prague and will commence on 1 September.
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Story: Hannah Tribe