U.S. Navy Hosts New Competition for Corrosion-Resistant Coatings

The new competition aims to help find coatings that can mitigate and control corrosion on Navy ships. Photo by Dana White, U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center.

In a new research competition dubbed “Rust-A-Thon,” the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) (Port Hueneme, California, USA) is looking to find coatings that can mitigate and control corrosion aboard Navy ships and shed light on the potentially damaging conditions to which the vessels are exposed. The contest is expected to consider input from a wide range of universities and private companies.

“Corrosion is a big issue for the Navy and combat systems because it’s so aggressive in the marine environment,” says Armen Kvryan, lead materials engineer at Port Hueneme (NWSC PHD). “With these assets, corrosion happens quicker than what we anticipate, and [once affected], the asset either stops working properly or stops working altogether.”

To address the corrosion issues, Kvryan is working with PHD’s Fathomwerx Lab, nearby Matter Labs (Camarillo, California, USA), and NSWC’s Carderock Division (NSWCCD) (Potomac, Maryland, USA) on the innovative contest. “I’m doing this competition for a specific Navy application, which needs a coating that can resist corrosion in extreme environments,” Kvryan explains. “Corrosion is so important to the Navy, because ships travel on, and are exposed to, salt water all the time. Plus, water splashes onto the top of the deck, and that’s a problem because salt accelerates rust, and we don’t want rusty ships.”

The competition involves testing how the different coatings perform in simulated oceanic conditions that replicate what Naval ships experience in real-world environments.

In all, more than five universities and companies doing anticorrosion research are participating in the competition. The process begins when Kvryan sends metallic panels to each organization to apply their coating to the panel. Then, they return the coated panels to Kvryan. He will then test the panels with the coatings along with Fathomwerx and NSWCCD, which is considered a Navy corrosion expert.

“We at PHD’s Office of Technology materials team are constantly supporting different line codes and departments, and we try to do as much outreach to the community as possible, so we know what is around us and their capabilities,” Kvryan explains. “This helps us to make that connection between research, innovation, and development, and bridge that transition to the fleet and support the warfighter directly.”

According to Jay Ong, head of the corrosion and coatings engineering branch for NSWCCD, the testing process includes conducting the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) B117 salt fog testing practice, which can provide information on how well the coated metals resist corrosion.

“I think one of the aspects about corrosion control for the Navy that is often lost on people is that we expect much more out of our coating systems than commercial industry,” Ong says. “We might need to get triple the amount of service life out of a coating for it to be viable than what the commercial industry needs, which changes the playing field rather substantially.”

Bryan Went, CEO of Matter Labs, notes that the Rust-A-Thon contest is also testing other conditions of these coatings, including anti-heat properties, as well as their ability to harden materials to handle aesthetic weather like heat and cold in later tracks. His goal for the competition is to find the right solution for the right application.

“My goal is to find the best solution for the Navy and the Port of Hueneme, as well as provide an opportunity for people to demonstrate their abilities, and then they can decide what works best for them,” Went says.

Kvryan said his current plan is to have test results from the contest available in the next few months. Once he and the partnering entities have finished the competition and testing, Kvryan will explain to participants how their products performed. From there, Kvryan and the group will then consider which product could best become a potential solution for the Navy.

Finding a product or solution that stops or even helps reduce rust and corrosion would help the Navy get ahead of this battle, which they believe will ultimately improve the capability of warfighter vessels. “We want fully functioning, clean ships,” Kvryan explains, regardless of which entity has the best solution.

Source: NAVSEA, www.navsea.navy.mil.