AFRL uncovering safer solutions for aircraft corrosion prevention

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Environmental Technology Program and Coating Technology Integration Office are playing a critical role in the discovery of environmentally-safer inorganic coatings solutions for protecting and extending the life of aluminum landing gear components in U.S. Air Force aircraft.

Working with aircraft maintainers at the Ogden Air Logistics Complex, AFRL researchers identified and tested a variety of non-chromium sealers to anodize aluminum aircraft landing gear components to reduce and prevent corrosion.

Non-chromium coatings and materials are increasingly important to the Air Force because of the harmful nature of chromate-based products. Chromium is listed on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of industrial toxic chemicals due to its toxicity to humans if inhaled or otherwise ingested. In 2009, a Department of Defense directive restricted the use of chromium-based compounds on military vehicles and weapon systems.

In order to find a suitable alternative material, AFRL researchers identified non-chromate materials that would perform similarly to the traditionally-used sodium dichromate sealers. They tested various types of sealers by coating test panels and landing gear components and anodizing the components using the same process as maintenance depots. They also performed additional tests that were specific to the needs of OO-ALC.

After testing four different products, AFRL researchers identified a permanganate-based sealer now being marketed as SafeGard® CC-5000 by Sanchem, Inc. that met, and in some cases, exceeded, the necessary criteria. They then presented the data to OO-ALC, where it was approved for use on landing gear wheels, brakes, and struts. In September 2015, the sealer was transitioned to OO-ALC and fully incorporated into the coating process.

“The transition and full implementation of this material is critical to Air Force as it moves toward more environmentally and health-conscious maintenance solutions,” said Dr. Elizabeth Berman, AFRL Senior Materials Research Engineer. “The fact that this safer material provides the same protection as the old materials makes it the ideal solution.”

AFRL’s EnviroTech Program executes development and demonstration of alternative environmentally-preferred technologies. The EnviroTech mission is to scope and develop technologies to meet user requirements, progress solutions through Technology Readiness Levels, and highlight technology transition activities for Air Force enterprise use.

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