Intrinsically delamination-resistant protective organic coatings for steel surfaces

Key Information


This project provides an excellent opportunity to work with a world leading company involved in the automotive coatings market, namely BASF Automotive, to develop next generation corrosion-protective polymer coatings for steel and galvanised steel surfaces. The key driver is the ever increasing need to improve durability, in turn allowing suppliers of organic coated steels to offer extended warranties on their products. A common corrosion-induced failure mechanism in organic coated steel consists of coating delamination by cathodic disbondment, originating from a penetrative defect where the bare steel surface is exposed. When a corrosive environment is encountered, metal dissolution becomes coupled with cathodic oxygen reduction beneath the polymer coating, leading to an increase in pH. This in turn destroys the coating-metal bond, promoted in part by alkaline hydrolysis of the polymer coating at its interface with the metal surface. Common types of organic coating used in corrosion protective paints, including polyester, polyurethane and epoxy resin polymers are well known to undergo base-catalysed hydrolysis and so are inherently susceptible to failure by cathodic disbondment.

Expertise in polymer synthesis within BASF Coatings will be exploited to develop a new generation of corrosion-protective coatings which are resistant to alkaline hydrolysis. This will be achieved initially through the synthesis of bespoke epoxy resin types in which various aromatic groups will be introduced to the polymer backbone. However, the investigation may also be expanded to include other polymer types such as poly-ethers which are well known to resist degradation under alkaline conditions. These will be used as the basis of model organic coatings applied to various steel surfaces and investigated in terms of their resistance to corrosion-driven failure at Swansea


Project Aims

  1. To develop an accelerated test protocol enabling a systematic study of corrosion-driven coating failure by cathodic disbondment for steel surfaces over-coated with polymer films which strongly resist alkaline hydrolysis.
  2. To identify epoxy resin functionalities which bestow the optimum resistance to delamination by cathodic disbondment.
  3. To assess the compatibility of new generation delamination resistant coatings with current state-of-the-art metal surface pre-treatments and in-coating anti-corrosion pigments
  4. To evaluate how base-hydrolysis resistant organic coatings provide corrosion protection when alternative modes of failure such as anodic disbondment and osmotic blistering are operational.

The main thrust of the work will be to develop next-generation protective coatings for both carbon steel and the zinc surface of galvanised steel. The program of work will exploit world-leading expertise in advanced electrochemical scanning techniques, coupled with high throughput methodologies to quantify corrosion protection efficiency and provide mechanistic understanding of coating failure mechanisms.

The investigation will be carried out using comprehensive in-situ and ex-situ electrochemical characterization by means of scanning Kelvin Probe (SKP), Scanning Vibrating electrode technique (SVET), alongside potentiodynamic and electrochemical impedance spectroscopy methods in the laboratories of the Swansea University corrosion research group. Surface chemical and structural characterization will be carried using a world class suite of instrumentation including Fourier-Transform Infra-red (FTIR) microscopy, X-ray-photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), glancing angle X-ray diffraction (XRD), and field emission gun scanning electron microscopy (FEG-SEM), available in the Materials Research Centre at the College of Engineering.

Sponsoring Company BASF Coatings GmbH

Suitable Candidate

Candidates should hold a degree in Materials Science & Engineering and/or Chemistry preferred, but first degrees in other physical sciences also acceptable (Engineering, Physics). A minimum degree classification of 2:1 is required although relevant experience that would enable the candidate to fulfil the role may also be considered

Previous experience using some of the techniques mentioned above is desirable, as well as a basic understanding of corrosion or how materials may degrade. Strong communication skills, both verbal and written are required and candidates should be keen to publish research and present at conferences

Our funders require applicants to also meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • You must be a UK or EU citizen (i.e. eligible for ‘home’ tuition fees at the University) and have the right to work in Wales at the end of your studies.
  • You must be resident in West Wales and the Valleys at the point of enrolment and throughout the duration of your studies.
  • You must not be financially able to participate without the award of grant funding.

Further information regarding eligibility criteria can be found at: http://www.materials-academy.co.uk/eligibility



The studentship covers the full cost of UK/EU tuition fees, plus a tax free stipend of £20,000 p.a.

Closing Date 17 June 2018

Start Date October 2018

Apply Now

Informal enquiries about this studentship are welcome and may be directed by email to: M2A@swansea.ac.uk