Development of a zinc-magnesium-aluminium metallic coating for use with pre-finished steels in the construction industry

Lead Research Organisation: Swansea University
Department Name: College of Engineering


The Tata Steel group is among the world's 10 largest manufacturers of steel and is spread over various global locations. The Coated products division of Tata Steel UK produce over 250 KT per annum of pre-painted steel for cladding applications in the construction market. The premium branded products produced at the Tata Shotton site are often supported by maintenance free warranties for up to 40 years, which is backed up by data from an extensive global weathering program.

Traditionally all premium branded products are produced using a Zinc(95%)/Al(5%) galvanised substrate. However, there is growing evidence that the galvanised substrates using Zn/Mg alloys can provide an equivalent performance at reduced cost.

Project Aims:
Coated products produced using known Zn/Mg alloys can be prone to problems with flexibility and filiform corrosion. The project will aim to consider various cost-effective alloying additions such as aluminium or silicon derivatives to optimise galvanising pot chemistries, to produce a galvanised product suitable for use in the manufacture of Colorcoat products.

The Research Engineer will produce lab scale Zn/Mg galvanised steel panels of various compositions with novel additions, and assess the physical and corrosion performance using SVET, time-lapse microscopy and accelerated exposure tests such as continuous salt spray and prohesion testing. These techniques will then enable them to evaluate corrosion mechanisms in-situ at a microstructural scale. This combination of microstructural engineering and in-situ monitoring of corrosion is unique to Swansea University and will provide the research engineer with a diverse skill set linking metallurgy and corrosion.

The Research Engineer will work work closely with the Shotton galvanising team to recommend pot chemistry and to evaluate material produced from controlled production line trials and will gain a critical insight into the process of taking technology from the lab to production. Furthermore, by being integrated with the metallic coatings group at Swansea University it will provide direct access to world lead coatings manufacturing and evaluation equipment and opportunity to join a thriving research group who are focused on next generation metallic coatings.

Predicted outcome:
The research will provide information relating to potential pot chemistries that will be used to develop manufacturing capability at the Tata Shotton site.

Planned Impact

The CDT will produce 50 graduates with doctoral level knowledge and research skills focussed on the development and manufacture of functional industrial coatings. Key impact areas are:

- The development of new products and processes to address real scientific challenges existing in industry and to transfer this knowledge into partnering companies. The CDT will enable rapid knowledge transfer between academia and industry due to the co-created projects and co-supervision.
- The creation of knowledge sharing network for partner companies created by the environment of the CDT.
- On average 2-3 publications per RE. Publications in high impact factor journals. The scientific scope of the CDT comprises a mixture of interdisciplinary areas and as such a breadth of knowledge can be generated through the CDT. Examples would include Photovoltaic coatings - Journal of Materials Chemistry A (IF 8.867) and Anti-corrosion Coatings - Corrosion Science (IF 5.245), Progress in Organic Coatings (IF 2.903)
- REs will disseminate knowledge at leading conferences e.g. Materials Research Society (MRS), Meetings of the Electrochemical Society, and through trade associations and Institutes representing the coatings sector.
- A bespoke training package on the formulation, function, use, degradation and end of life that will embed the latest research and will be available to industry partners for employees to attend as CPD and for other PGRs demonstrating added value from the CDT environment.

Wealth Creation
- Value added products and processes created through the CDT will generate benefits for Industrial partners and supply chains helping to build a productive nation.
- Employment of graduates into industry will transfer their knowledge and skills into businesses enabling innovation within these companies.
- Swansea University will support potential spin out companies where appropriate through its dedicated EU funded commercialisation project, Agor IP.

Environment and society
- Functionalised surfaces can potentially improve human health through anti-microbial surfaces for health care infrastructure and treatment of water using photocatalytic coatings.
- Functionalised energy generation coatings will contribute towards national strategies regarding clean and secure energy.
- Responsible research and innovation is an overarching theme of the CDT with materials sustainability, ethics, energy and end of life considered throughout the development of new coatings and processes. Thus, REs will be trained to approach all future problems with this mind set.
- Outreach is a critical element of the training programme (for example, a module delivered by the Ri on public engagement) and our REs will have skills that enable the dissemination of their knowledge to wide audiences thus generating interest in science and engineering and the benefits that investments can bring.

- Highly employable doctoral gradates with a holistic knowledge of functional coatings manufacture who can make an immediate impact in industry or academia.
- The REs will have transferable skills that are pertinent across multiple sectors.
- The CDT will develop ethically aware engineers with sustainability embed throughout their training
- The promotion of equality, diversity and inclusivity within our cohorts through CDT and University wide initiatives.
- The development of alumni networks to grow new opportunities for our CDT and provide REs with mentors.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/S02252X/1 01/10/2019 31/03/2028
2595189 Studentship EP/S02252X/1 01/10/2021 30/09/2025 Katerina Hrubantova