High-Volume Hexavalent-Free Processing of Hard Coatings

EPA Contract Number: EPD07045
Title: High-Volume Hexavalent-Free Processing of Hard Coatings
Investigators: Lund, Alan
Small Business: Xtalic Corporation
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: March 1, 2007 through August 31, 2007
Project Amount: $70,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2007) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , SBIR - Pollution Prevention


Xtalic Corporation possesses a new technology for controlling the nanostructure of electrodeposited metal coatings. Through precise control of the metallic grain size at nanometer length scales, this technology can create coatings with precisely tailored properties. These properties are generally very favorable, and new properties and suites of properties can be achieved in alloy systems where they were not previously accessible. Xtalic has, to date, focused on optimizing the technology to produce hard, abrasion-resistant metal coatings.

The current dominant hard metal coating technology is hard chromium. These coatings have favorable properties, but require the use of hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen, as a precursor material. In addition, the dynamic, high-volume “barrel” processes commonly used for other industrial electroplating applications cannot be effectively applied for hard chromium due to the low current efficiency of the process. As a result, the processing of large numbers of parts with hard chromium is labor-intensive and often economically infeasible.

Xtalic can produce coatings with properties that match or exceed those of current hard chromium coatings for many applications without the use of hexavalent chromium. In the current project, Xtalic will extend this technology for use in dynamic high-volume barreling techniques. In particular, Xtalic will focus on evaluating the feasibility of current waveform control on millisecond timescales for such processes, and on correlating the results of its existing static process with those of this new dynamic process. The successful completion of this project will provide a new technology to replace current hard chromium coatings that: (1) has significantly reduced environmental and worker exposure concerns; (2) has substantially reduced costs resulting from reduced labor requirements; and (3) produces coatings with superior in-service performance.

The combined benefits of Xtalic’s new dynamic, high-volume technique for the application of hard coatings will be attractive for a wide variety of industrial applications, especially where a large number of small, identical parts need to be coated. Xtalic has identified a number of markets where this technology will be particularly valuable, and several potential end-users have expressed strong interest in the possibility of becoming early adopters. These potential partners will be tapped for technical advice during Phase I of the project, and it is anticipated that one will become an implementation partner in Phase II. The successful implementation of our technology on a customer site during Phase II of the project will accelerate Xtalic’s ability to capture follow-on customers for the technology.

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, EPA, hard coatings, metal coatings, chromium coatings, nanostructure, metal coating processing technology, high-volume barrel processes, hexavalent chromium, carcinogenic substances, occupational exposure, environmental exposure,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Sustainable Industry/Business, Environmental Chemistry, Sustainable Environment, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Environmental Engineering, automotive industry, nanotechnology, automotive components, alternative chromate conversion, emission reduction

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final