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Battelle Creates Smart Coating to Fight Rust

Posted on Jan 22, 2009


COLUMBUS, OH. 22 January, 2009— Neil Young said it in 1979: Rust never sleeps.

Today, Battelle researchers have taken his words to heart.  In their innovative heads, they have come up with a smart coating that can reveal where corrosion is forming on metal even though one can’t see the degradation with the naked eye.

Ramanathan Lalgudi, a principal research scientist, and Barry McGraw, a program manager, both of whom work in Battelle’s Advanced Materials Applications Department, were working on a nanomaterial project when a new application for their work jumped out at them.

They were attaching groups of chemicals on the surface of nanomaterials and studying their effectiveness towards the environment.  That led them to the idea of using the same technical approach to detect corrosion.  What if the corrosion product on a material could react with the functional nanomaterials? 

The end result:  A true early corrosion detection method.  They created a smart coating derived from the functional nanomaterial that could be applied between a primer and topcoat and fluoresces once a corrosion product is generated from the metal.  In this case, the metal is aluminum, but the chemistry can be tweaked for other metals.

This will be invaluable for many industries.  Any metal object begins to falter as it corrodes—airplanes, cars, bridges—just to name a few.  The Department of Defense estimates that corrosion of its equipment costs $10 to $20 billion per year.  If one can repair metal before it’s demonstrably compromised, the savings could be astronomical in terms of time, energy, material and money.

Imagine this:  An airline mechanic goes over the outer shell of an airplane with a hand-held device, shining it all over its surface.  He sees a spot, determines it is corrosion, and he fixes it before it can do any damage.

Lalgudi said the smart coating could even be married to a primer or integrated with the scanning device.  Battelle has a provisional patent for the intellectual property and though the material is two to three years away from commercialization, Lalgudi and McGraw and their business line colleagues are seeking partners to help take it to market.

About Battelle

As the world’s largest independent research and development organization, Battelle provides innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing needs through its four global businesses:  Laboratory Management; National Security; Health and Life Sciences; and Energy, Environment and Material Sciences. It advances scientific discovery and application by conducting $6.2 billion in global R&D annually through contract research, laboratory management and technology commercialization. 

Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Battelle oversees 22,000 employees in more than 130 locations worldwide, including eight national laboratories for which Battelle has a significant management role on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the United Kingdom.

Battelle also is one of the nation’s leading charitable trusts focusing on societal and economic impact and actively supporting and promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.

Media Contacts

For more information contact Katy Delaney at (614) 424-7208 or, or T.R. Massey at (614) 424-5544 or


Media Contacts

Katy Delaney
Director, Media Relations
Office: 1.614.424.7208

T.R. Massey

Senior Media Specialist
Office: 1.614.424.5544