"Smart paint" could allow engineers to more readily identify and repair corrosion

"Smart paint" could allow engineers to more readily identify and repair corrosion

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News & Events - Engineering News

March 12, 2012 

Engineers are working to create a "smart paint" that could be used to better identify and repair corrosion.

Scientists at Britain's University of Strathclyde are endeavoring to develop a new generation of paints that would help public and private organizations more effectively tackle the challenges of corrosion. Working at the university, Mohamed Saafi has increasingly focused his engineering research and development on the pursuit of a smart paint that could make it significantly simpler for officials to monitor corrosion.

The researchers said the smart paint they have developed consists of a number of commonly used substances, though they are employing them in innovative ways. The smart paint is made up of fly-ash, carbon nanotubes and the binding agents sodium silicate and sodium hydroxide. The engineers said that, in essence, they had developed a paint that would act as a corrosion-identifying agent.

The paint, which resembles cement in texture and look, can be applied to a number of different structures, including wind turbines and bridges. The scientists said that the nanotubes contained within the smart paint can conduct electricity, which is critically important in how the technology works.

The nanotubes' conductivity is disrupted by cracks and other obstacles prompted by the presence of corrosion. When they are under stress, the nanotubes bend and become less conductive, though, on the other hand, their conductivity increases when they are exposed to chloride ions, present in salt water. This, according to the scientists, enables them to more effectively monitor corrosion through the use of the smart paint.

The engineers said that by installing electrodes throughout the surface area of any structure that officials wish to monitor for corrosion, they are able to gain insight into whether corrosion could be potentially impacting the nanotubes' conductivity. The engineers said they are endeavoring to create software that would enable them to more seamlessly understand the images projected back through the system.

Though the work is not yet perfected, the engineers said they have successfully used electrical-impedance tomography – routinely used as a medical imaging technology – to interpret the data. With additional research, they contend the corrosion detection system could potentially save hundreds of millions of dollars annually.


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