Replacements for Chromate Pigments in Anticorrosion Primers for Aluminum Alloys
Aerospace aluminum alloys such as Al alloy 2024-T3 and 7075-T6 are subject to localized corrosion due the existence of intermetallics containing Cu, Mg or Zn. Chromate is currently widely used in the aerospace industry as the corrosion inhibitor for these alloys. However, chromate needs to be replaced due to its strong carcinogenicity. In this study, an extensive pigment screening has been performed to find replacements for chromates. Different categories of inhibitors were evaluated by immersion tests, DC polarization tests and other methods. Phosphates, zinc salts, cerium salts, vanadates and benzotriazole were found to be effective inhibitors for AA7075. Among those inhibitors, zinc phosphate was found to be the most effective in our novel, silane-based, one-step aqueous primer system. The performance of this primer is comparable to that of currently used chromate primers in accelerated corrosion tests, while it is completely chromate-free and its VOC is about 80% less than that of current primers. Studies by SEM/EDS showed that the unique structure of the superprimer accounts for the strong anti-corrosion performance of the zinc phosphate pigment. The self-assembled stratified double-layer structure of the superprimer is characterized by a less-penetrable hydrophobic layer at the top and a hydrophilic layer accommodating the inhibitors underneath. The top layer functions as the physical barrier against water ingress, while the lower layer functions as a reservoirfor the inhibitor, which is leached out only if the coating is damaged by a scratch or scribe. The presence of a silane in the primer further improves the adhesion and anti-corrosion performance of the primer.
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