Can algae help replace chromium-6 in coatings?

News - 24 June 2019

Extraordinary things are happening in Dr. Santiago Garcia’s laboratory at the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering. His research group is working on new solutions for existing problems in the field of aircraft materials. The group is currently achieving great success using algae in the development of a safe and environmentally friendly corrosion protector to replace the carcinogenic chromium-6.

The European Union is determined to see chromium-6 banned from all chemical processes as quickly as possible. This is why many scientists are looking for alternatives. Unfortunately, preventing corrosion without chromium-6 is proving to be far from easy. This is especially the case in vehicles, such as aircraft, that have to withstand extreme conditions that fluctuate quickly.

Algae skeletons
This is why Santiago Garcia is pursuing a completely different route: he is placing the skeletons of algae into his coatings. These exoskeletons of unicellular diatoms are excellent carriers of corrosion inhibitors. Corrosion inhibitors are salts that react with the metal surface when it is damaged, forming a protective layer.

Nursery in Delft
Using the algae exoskeletons has significant advantages. Algae are a cheap renewable raw material and 100% biologic. Algae skeletons are currently obtained as a residual product while mining for other raw materials. Many different types are delivered together, and the skeletons are mostly broken. There are 100,000 different types, which makes it difficult to obtain the type you want intact. But the solution to this is actually quite simple: an algae nursery in Delft. “What we now need is the right type, in the right quantities, when the research calls for it,” says Garcia.

Delft University Fund
Delft University Fund supports pioneering research with great social impact such as this research of Dr. Santiago Garcia. Will you help to accelerate the research for an environmentally friendly replacement for chromium-6?

Read more about the research of Dr. Santiago Garcia.