AkzoNobel and the Corrosion and Protection Centre (CPC) at the University of Manchester have formed the AkzoNobel Laboratory of Corrosion Protection. The laboratory is a result of a five-year landmark strategic partnership between the largest global paint and coatings company and one of the U.K.’s top universities.
“The agreement was signed in December 2011,” said Simon Gibbon, community of practice leader – corrosion protection, research, development and innovation at AkzoNobel. “Professor Stuart Lyon was appointed on April 1, 2012 as the AkzoNobel Professor of Corrosion Control, based in the School of Materials, to oversee an agreed research program to be supported by research staff within UoM. Two MSc projects were completed in 2012 and the first Post-doctorate projects started on the December 1, 2012.”
The University of Manchester is home to the world’s largest academic unit dedicated to the study of corrosion. Its partnership with AkzoNobel commenced in April 2012 to help tackle the annual $3 trillion global annual cost, accounting for more than three percent of the world’s GDP, according to AkzoNobel.
The partnership allows AkzoNobel access to the sophisticated and state-of-the-art specialist measurement equipment and techniques developed by the CPC, as well as consultancy and training.
“The partnerships’s goal is to provide scientific understanding of a number of key questions which remain to be solved for corrosion protection – Why do coatings work and why do coatings fail? What allows a corrosion protection system to protect many different metals? How long will a system provide corrosion protection? How to detect corrosion early? How to achieve corrosion inhibition with sustainable chemistry?,” said Gibbon.
With annual sales of more than €1.5 billion in the field, AkzoNobel has leading positions in the supply of corrosion inhibiting coatings and specialty chemicals to the transport, oilfield and construction markets.
“The initial areas will be the protection of capital assets under extreme conditions, new alloys in transport applications and corrosion protection in oil production,” said Gibbons.
As well as allowing for the opening of a new lab to help tackle corrosion, the partnership has also resulted in the appointment of Professor Stuart Lyon as the AkzoNobel Professor of Corrosion Control, based in the School of Materials, to oversee a research program to be supported by research staff within UoM. Several post-doctoral researchers and PhD students have also been directly employed to work on projects with active AkzoNobel technical involvement.
“Obviously AkzoNobel is providing funding which allows Professor Stuart Lyon to recruit a team to work on the research, but more than that we see this as truly being a partnership,” said Gibbon. “AkzoNobel worked with the University to define the most societally important challenges in corrosion protection and then AkzoNobel worked with the University to define a number of projects which will provide new scientific understanding optimally using our combined skills.”
“While AkzoNobel chose to work with the University due to their wide range of relevant expertise and massive range of state-of-the-art equipment, AkzoNobel does not want the University to replicate either skills or equipment which is available from within the company, so the University researchers will travel to AkzoNobel sites to use certain equipment and AkzoNobel personnel will be regular visitors to Manchester to be an integral part of the project teams,” he added. “So, AkzoNobel is not just going to pay the University and wait for the results, but provide the application knowledge which will focus the program on the most important challenges and AkzoNobel will be using its capabilities to help the University tackle the projects most effectively.”
It is still early in its inception, but a number of useful results have been obtained for AkzoNobel.
“Firstly, the process of jointly developing the program proposal identified a number of areas where considerable synergy existed between AkzoNobel’s different application groups and this has resulted in a number of new internal cooperations,” said Gibbon. “Secondly, the initial two MSc projects which were very different, with one giving us a method for customers to avoid premature corrosion failure in an automotive application and insight which will guide the future development of more robust products, the other provided us with a rapid method to confirm the suitability of different steels for use in our chemical plants where avoidance of corrosion is key to safe operation.”
The partnership will provide the company with new scientific understanding of major challenges in corrosion control and will provide new targets for the development of corrosion protection products.
“The combination of AkzoNobel, the global leader in corrosion protection organic coatings, and The University of Manchester, one of the world’s largest centers of corrosion and material science expertise, is a unique combination of skills and equipment, which will be focused on technologically important gaps in the scientific understanding of corrosion protection, the knowledge generated will be used to deliver improved corrosion protection products,” concluded Gibbon.
The partnership will allow the CPC to extend its knowledge about the mechanisms of corrosion formation, as well as enhance its ability to explore the underpinning science and to develop technology platforms for its prevention.
It is anticipated that the partnership will gear AkzoNobel’s capabilities and resources by attracting additional funding from external sources as well as strengthening relationships with key customers, many of whom already collaborate with the CPC.