Engineering Doctorate (EngD)

The Influence of Oxygen Reduction on Corrosion Protective Organic Coating Failure

Industrial Sponsor - BASF Coatings
Closing Date - 10th June 2022

Key Information

Academic Supervisors: Primary: Prof Geraint Williams. Secondary: Prof James Sullivan.

Industry Supervisor: Dr Patrick Keil

Expected Interview Date: Late June-July 2022


It is well known that localized corrosion causes paint films to delaminate from metal surfaces, through a mechanism involving anodic metal dissolution at a penetrative coating defect, coupled to cathodic oxygen reduction occurring on the adjacent organic-coated metal. This cathode-driven disbondment of the organic coating is thought to proceed through the formation of an under-film alkaline environment, which promotes loss of adhesion through hydrolysis of interfacial bonds, polymer degradation, and dissolution of amphoteric oxide layers. However, it is also thought that the presence of highly reactive intermediate species in the oxygen reduction reaction, such as peroxides and free radicals may also play an important role in de-adhesion on certain metal surfaces. This project forms part of a larger partnership involving BASF Coatings Ltd, in collaboration with Swansea University and Imperial College London, where the main theme will involve furthering knowledge of corrosion-induced failure of protective organic coatings when applied to metal surfaces. The principal focus of this project will be directed towards a fundamental understanding of the role of oxygen reduction in organic coating degradation via a cathodic delamination mechanism.

This project aims to fundamentally understand the role of the oxygen reduction reaction on the corrosion-driven failure of protective organic coatings applied to steel and galvanized steel surfaces. The principal objectives will comprise the following:

  • A correlation of oxygen reduction rate, determined electrochemically on bare metal surfaces with organic coating failure rate under atmospheric conditions when the same surfaces are coated with a protective organic layer.
  • An understanding of the influence of surface oxide composition and the presence of thin film pretreatments on oxygen reduction rate and the associated tendency to undergo organic coating disbondment.
  • A mechanistic understanding of the interfacial processes associated with oxygen reduction which cause de-adhesion at the metal-polymer interface, along with a knowledge of any chemical changes produced within the polymer film.

Project Aims:

The research will concentrate on three specific areas of interest:

(i) Developing methodologies which enable the oxygen reduction reaction to be characterized in situations where metal surfaces such as cold-rolled steel and galvanized steel are coated with an organic layer.

(ii) Gaining mechanistic information of the cathodic disbondment process by identifying chemical and physical changes in the de-adhered polymer film caused by interfacial oxygen reduction

(iii) A comparison of electrochemical measurements of oxygen reduction rates on various metal substrates with empirically gathered organic coating cathodic delamination rates to identify controlling factors such as surface composition/chemistry; understand the means to mitigate against cathode-driven coating failure.

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 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 Faculty of Science & Engineering.


COATED M2A recognises applicants have a variety of backgrounds with different educational and research experiences. We do not expect applicants to be proficient users of any techniques /equipment mentioned, at the time of application. Our focus is to upskill our participants and training will be provided.

COATED M2A in the Faculty of Science and Engineering is a Swansea University initiative which provides postgraduate research training in partnership with industry, providing access to world class laboratories and a wealth of academic and industry expertise. COATED M2A is committed to providing top quality research opportunities within an inclusive environment, funded by the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Swansea University and Industry partners.

Interwoven through the research study are business, technical and entrepreneurial courses, designed to support and prepare participants for a senior role in industry or academia, on completion of their studies.

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. Applications from women and other under-represented groups are particularly welcomed. All applications will be anonymised prior to short listing.

Are you considering making an application and have questions you’d like answered? Come and have a 1-2-1 chat with us at our applicant surgeries (Link) . We encourage all applicants to review our hints and tips document found here.

Sponsoring Company: BASF Coatings GmbH


Candidates must normally hold a minimum undergraduate degree at 2.1 level (or Non-UK equivalent as defined by Swansea University), or a combination of degree and equivalent experience to the same level.

Normally, we would expect candidates to have met the University’s English Language requirements (e.g., IELTS 6.5 overall with 5.5+ in each component) by point of application.

Full eligibility can be found at


EngD Only – Fees at UK rate and Stipend £20,000.00, both for the period of four years.

For full details on funding eligibility, please refer to the Materials and Manufacturing Academy (M2A) Website. Student Eligibility | M2A (

Candidates must have the legal right to live/work in the UK at the start of their studies (student visas do not apply).

Closing Date: 10th June 2022

Start Date: 1st October 2022

Applications and informal enquiries about this studentship should be directed by email to:

Materials and Manufacturing Academy (M2A) provides industry led postgraduate research training based at Swansea University's new Bay Campus. M2A is part funded by the European Social Fund through the Welsh Government.