SBIR Phase I: The LumiShield Process: A Cost-effective, Environmentally-responsible Alternative to Chromium Plating

Period of Performance: 01/01/2016 - 06/30/2016

$150K

Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

LumiShield Technologies Incorporated
1816 Parkway View Drive Building 18
Pittsburgh, PA 15205
Firm POC, Principal Investigator

Abstract

This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project will address a pressing need for more environmentally-responsible coatings in the anti-corrosion market. If successfully commercialized, the proposed aluminum electroplating process will displace multiple existing anti-corrosion coatings, which are based on toxic metals. The adoption of this new material will eliminate the release of toxic metals into the environment. By decreasing the cost of corrosion-resistant coatings, it may also be possible to reduce the flow of plating jobs to less environmentally responsible areas overseas. The current United States market for these coatings is valued at $6 billion annually. In addition to its environmental benefits, the proposed process is also expected to be less expensive than the incumbent technologies. The reduction in cost arises from decreases in plating solution, waste treatment, and energy costs. For the aerospace industry, which is the initial target market, the availability of the process will mean safer conditions for workers, less environmental impact, and lower costs. This Phase I effort will result in the full understanding of the process necessary to scale-up to a commercial demonstration. The intellectual merit of this project is associated with its exploration of non-aqueous electroplating of highly active metals in the presence of atmospheric moisture and oxygen. Typically, electroplating of aluminum has taken place from organic solvents such as toluene at elevated temperatures under an inert purge. The difficulty in scaling this technology has prevented its adoption for many applications which might otherwise make good use of aluminum coatings. The research will examine phenomena associated with aluminum electroplating and optimize the coating process for several substrates. It will be necessary to more fully understand the effects of variables such as electrode configuration, plating solution composition, temperature, and current density on the phenomena. Each of these parameters will be mapped to performance, and the process will be fully optimized for mild steel substrates. Finally, this Phase I research effort will also help to elucidate a variety of interesting phenomena associated with non-aqueous plating of highly active metal species.