Performance of novel tinplate products: adhesion of polyester to new, REACH-compliant steel substrates

Key Information

Steel food and beverage cans are generally coated with a lacquer to provide improved food preservation and to fit with legislation.  These “epoxy-type” lacquers, until recently mainly based on bisphenol A (BPA), applied to tinplate have been used very successfully for many years. However, due to recent (food) safety concerns about the use of BPA lacquers, legislation has been introduced in Europe banning its use in cans.  Protact (Tata Steel’s polymer-coated substrate) is seen as the perfect candidate to solve these issues. Large investment projects are being realised in Trostre (Wales) and IJmuiden (The Netherlands) to increase production volumes and develop this growing market.

Furthermore, European legislation requires industry to step away from Cr(VI) during production processes. Current substrate for Protact is a chrome-coated steel (ECCS), produced via a Cr(VI) process. Although the final product is Cr(VI)-free, ECCS needs to be replaced to protect the workforce against exposure to Cr(VI). To ensure availability of the right substrate Tata Steel has developed an alternative substrate, called TCCT, itself an active subject of EngDoc research. However, all mechanistic studies on adhesion of Protact to substrate were done on ECCS, and relatively limited understanding of the factors influencing the adhesion on TCCT are clearly defined.

Polyester laminates (like Tata Steel’s Protact material) are uniquely suited to solve all current (BPA) and future food safety issues and with the new substrate will also comply to the REACH legislation. In IJmuiden, already a new TCCT cell has been installed in the production line, and investment in Trostre will be done in the near future. With these large new investments being realised, the understanding of the material performance is essential for Tata Steel to support the use of Protact in the market. The theme of this proposal is to understand the properties of Protact with respect to adhesion of the coating under severe conditions like food sterilisation and to determine requirements of the material to achieve sufficient product performance.

Suitable Candidates

The candidate should hold a degree in materials science, (polymer) chemistry, engineering, physics, or similar technical discipline and be willing to develop and apply his/her knowledge, know-how and skill to the fundamental understanding of polymer coated Packaging Steel. Students will be working closely together with the Packaging business of Tata Steel as well as their R&D group. Occasional travel to various sites in UK and the Netherlands will be part of the role.

Academic Supervisor

Eifion Jewell

Sponsoring Company Tata Steel Packaging

Candidates should hold an Engineering or Physical Sciences degree with a minimum classification level of 2:1 or equivalent relevant experience.

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 Athena SWAN Charter recognises work undertaken by institutions to advance gender equality. The College of Engineering is an Athena SWAN bronze award holder and is committed to addressing unequal gender representation.


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

Closing Date 3 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