Chrome electroplating protects from corrosion and adds an aesthetically pleasing sheen, but chromium comes with serious health risks and chromium compounds have been shown to cause cancer.
Speaking at an Institute of Physics conference in Chester, UK, Professor Robert Akid warns that workers are being exposed to chromium compounds that are potentially cancer-causing and says that a safer alternative is much needed. He told the conference, Novel Applications of Surface Modification, organized by the Applied Physics and Technology Division of the Institute of Physics, that he and his colleagues are developing an alternative that will not only be safer but cuts down on costs by reducing the numerous processing stages associated with conventional electroplating.
Professor Akid, who is Head of the Structural Materials & Integrity Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University, is developing a so-called "sol-gel technology" which is a colloid with nanoparticles in a solvent that can form a gel. A metal object is sprayed with or dipped into the sol-gel system and it quickly forms a gel-like layer on the object's surface. The solvent is then removed by evaporation and the coating cured, or hardened. Akid says that the sol-gel approach can be used to coat a wider range of metals than electroplating methods.
Professor Akid said: "These inorganic-organic hybrid coatings have the potential to become an effective method of producing an alternative low-cost anti-corrosion or functional coating. The technology can be formulated and cured to give highly corrosion resistant, ceramic-based coatings. The method uses a range of cure temperatures and coatings are cured rapidly. The chemistry of the formulations has also been developed to provide
Contact: David Reid
Institute of Physics