Final Report: Amorphous Alloy Surface Coatings for Hard Chromium Replacement

EPA Contract Number: EPD09027
Title: Amorphous Alloy Surface Coatings for Hard Chromium Replacement
Investigators: Provenzano, Virgil
Small Business: Integran Technologies USA, Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: February 1, 2009 through July 31, 2009
Project Amount: $69,787
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2009) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


The main objective of this Phase I SBIR project was to develop an innovative and cost-effective manufacturing process that is capable of producing environmentally benign amorphous alloy composite surface coatings as a replacement for hard chromium coating technology. Specifically, this project sought to demonstrate that a metal matrix composite coating consisting of an amorphous Co-P alloy matrix incorporating hard ceramic second phase reinforcing particles would provide high strength, highly wear/erosion resistant protective coatings to both structural and functional components for a wide range of applications. These coatings would be free from cracks, pits, and pores and would be capable of meeting all of the requirements currently provided by the hard chrome coatings. Importantly, this innovative coating technology is very attractive from capital investment perspectives because it is based on well established electroplating practices and, thus, would be relatively quick and easy to transition to industrial production, using currently used hard chrome plating infrastructure and requiring no upfront cost for new equipment.
The thrust of the project consisted of the identification, development, and characterization of amorphous Co-based composite systems that would be capable of replacing hard chrome. The workplan for this project was subdivided into the following five tasks:  (1) development and optimization of the Co-P matrix alloy, (2) development of the process to co-deposit hard ceramic second-phase reinforcing particles, (3) development of appropriate thermal treatments, (4) performance testing (adhesion, wear, corrosion), and (5) project management. Side-by-side testing was conducted against hard chromium as the baseline reference material.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

An amorphous Co-P + diamond particle reinforced composite coating was developed and scaled to TRL 4. This coating exhibited properties that were equivalent to and, in many ways, superior to hard chromium, including:
·         Equivalent abrasive wear resistance to hard chromium
·         Significantly superior sliding/adhesive wear resistance to hard chromium
·         Superior lubricity to hard chromium
·         Equivalent corrosion resistance to hard chromium
·         Equivalent or superior hardness to hard chromium
·         Superior current efficiency to hard chromium
·         Superior plating rate to hard chromium


The overall performance of the coatings developed in the project was found to be equivalent and, in some respects, quite superior to that of hard chromium. The electrodeposited amorphous Co-P matrix diamond particle reinforcement composite coating developed in this project represents an environmentally acceptable drop-in technology that allows for the use of existing hard chrome plating infrastructure and significantly reduces the time and cost to its practical implementation.
As an environmentally benign alternative to hard chrome coatings, Integran USA’s amorphous Co-P diamond particle reinforced composite coatings have the potential to be used for a number of well-developed markets and technological applications. In particular, the amorphous Co-P diamond particle reinforced composite coatings are well-suited for applications for which a high abrasive wear resistance is required as well as in other appropriate applications. Target technology coating sectors include:  oil and gas, mining, aerospace, chemical and food processing, agriculture, automotive, and tooling.

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, EPA, alloy coating, hard chromium coating, industry, military, chromic acid bath, hexavalent chromium, Cr+6, Cr(VI), toxic, exposure, hard chromium electroplating, environmental risk, health risk, low coefficient of friction, hardness, cost-effective, manufacturing process, alloy composite surface coating, metal matrix composite coating, wear resistant, erosion resistant, corrosion, thermal properties, cobalt-based metal alloy, life cycle, chromium alternative