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SAS Nanotechnologies: Finding a Sustainable Way to Stop Metals from Corroding

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Corrosion is one of the biggest problems in the industrial world. 

The cost of replacing parts, protecting against and inspecting for corrosion costs companies and the country about $500 billion a year, according to the National Association of Corrosion Engineers and the G2MT Laboratories (a society of metallurgists). 

Boats, bridges, anything made of metal will eventually corrode if it isn’t coated. The coatings used to stop that corrosion often bring environmental and potential health problems of their own. 

SAS Nanotechnologies in Newark has a solution. The company’s product senses when a scratch happens in the anti-corrosion coating and automatically fixes it. 

SAS Nano

Sumedh Surwade, who is trying to bring his new coating technology to the market, works in his lab at the University of Delaware STAR Campus. | Photo by Ron Dubick

“It will stop the corrosion,” says Sumedh Surwade, founder and CEO. “Once corrosion starts, the coating [kicks in].”

The key to the product is a smart polymer microcapsule, a tiny ball filled with a corrosion inhibitor, lubricant or other product. The microcapsule is activated by the electrochemical reaction of corrosion to release its payload.

“It’s very simple chemistry,” says Surwade, who holds a PhD in chemistry and polymer science from University of Massachusetts at Lowell. 

Most anti-corrosion coatings today contain toxic metal ions such as chromates, zinc and lead. As corrosion spreads, it causes the coatings to flake and peel. Even the chemicals involved in repairing and repainting the structures are dangerous to our health, says Surwade.

Less corrosion means less flaking and peeling of toxic metal coatings and less need for repair and repainting. The corrosion inhibitors in the SAS platform are water-based and environmentally friendly.

“We hope we can make the environment better. That’s the plan,” he says. The SAS in the company’s name stands for “smart, advanced and sustainable.” The microcapsule replaces the need for several different toxic anti-corrosion materials, so it actually costs less to make the coating with the nanotechnology. 

Although still very small, SAS has already received some big attention. Recently, the three-person company was awarded a “Paint the Future” collaboration award from Dutch coatings company AkzoNobel to create more organic corrosion inhibitors. 

“We’re very excited to continue our collaborative journey with the recipients of the Paint the Future awards,” says Klaas Kruithof, AkzoNobel’s chief technology officer and chairman of the Paint the Future jury. “We’re going to drive innovation in paints and coatings beyond expectation, imagination and generations.”

The potential applications for the anti-corrosion products are huge, says Surwade. The technology could be used for everything from stopping corrosion on oil rigs in the ocean to protecting the undercarriage of personal automobiles driving on the beach. SAS’ goal is a world with corrosion-free metal structures made with environmentally sustainable coatings. 

But stopping corrosion isn’t the only possible use for the microcapsules. Other applications being explored include pesticide release, lubricant additive, adhesive additive, even food packaging and specialty chemicals. Surwade is open to collaboration with other companies. 

“The company we want to build is the kind of company that works with customers to solve their problems,” says Surwade.

—Kim Hoey

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