Intrinsically delamination-resistant protective organic coatings for steel surfaces

Key Information

Supervisors: Prof N McMurray and Prof G Williams

This project provides an excellent opportunity to work with BASF, a worldwide business involved in the automotive coatings market, and to develop the next generation corrosion-protective polymer coatings for steel and galvanised steel surfaces. 

A common corrosion-induces failure mechanism in organic coated steel consiste of coating delamination by cathodic disbondment, originating from a penetrative defect where the bare steel surface is exposed. 

When a corrosive environment is encountered, metal dissolution becomes coupled with cathodic oxygen reduction beneath the polymer coating, resulting in an increase in pH. In turn, this destroys the coating-metal bond, promoted in part by alkaline hydrolysis of the polymer coating at its interface with the metal surface. 

Common types of organic coating used in corrosion protective paints, including polyester, polyurethane and epoxy resin polymers are well known to undergo base-catalysed hydrolysis and so are inherently susceptible to failure by cathodic disbondment. 

The Research Engineering will:

  • Develop an accelerated test protocol, enabling a systematic study of corrosion-driven coating failure by cathodic disbondment for steel surfaces over-coated with polymer films, which strongly resist alkaline hydrolysis.
  • Identify epoxy resin functionalities that bestow optimum resistance to delamination by cathodic disbondment.
  • Assess the compatibility of new generation delamination resistant coatings with current state-of-the-art metal surface pre-treatments and in-coating anti-corrosion pigments.
  • To evaluate how base-hydrolysis resistant organic coatings provide corrosion protection when alternative modes of failure such as anodic disbondment and osmotic blistering are operational. 

This work aims to develop next generation protective coatings for carbon steel and the zinc surface of galvanised steel. The work will quantify corrosion protection efficiency and provide mechanistic understanding of coating failure mechanisms.

Swansea university is a top 30 UK institution for research excellence (Research Excellence Framework 2014) and has been named Welsh University of the Year 2017 by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide.

The Materials and Manufacturing Academy (M2A) in the College of Engineering is a Swansea University initiative which provides postgraduate research training in partnership with industry; providing access to world-class laboratories and a wealth of academic and industry expertise. The M2A is committed to delivering high quality collaborative research opportunities within an inclusive environment, funded by the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Swansea University and Industry partners. 

Interwoven through the research study are business, technical and entrepreneurial courses, designed to support and prepare participants for a senior role in industry or academia, on completion of their studies. Research Engineers may participate in our career mentoring system, offering opportunities to engage with M2A alumni and other senior staff from across the University.  

The Athena SWAN charter recognises work undertaken by institutions to advance gender equality. The College of Engineering is an Athena SWAN bronze award holder and is committee to addressing unequal gender representation.

Applications from women are particularly welcomed. As a positive action to address gender imbalance, female undergraduates considering a career in research are invited to join our two-day laboratory taster session and learn about a typical day in the life of a research engineer.


Sponsoring Company BASF

We welcome applications from candidates with an Engineering or Physical Science degree (minimum level 2:1), or a combination of degree and equivalent relevant experience to the same level to join the M2A community of research engineers. 

To be eligible for WEFO funding, applicants should:

  • Be a UK or EU citizen (eligible for home tuition fees at Swansea University) and have the right to work in Wales at the end of their studies.
  • Be resident within West Wales and the Valleys at the time of enrolment and for the duration of the candidature.
  • Must not be financially able to participate in study for a postgraduate research degree without the award of this funding. 

To be eligible for EPSRC funding, applicants should:

  • Be eligible for home tuition fees at Swansea University.
  • Have settled status in the UK, meaning no restrictions on the length of stay in the UK; and be ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the grant, apart from temporary or occasional absences.
  • Not have been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for the purpose of full-time education. This does not apply to UK nationals and EU nationals who were ordinarily resident in the EU immediately before the period of full-time education.

Full fees at Home/EU rate for a period of four academic years.

Maintenance stipend at £20K per annum for a period of four years.

Closing Date 15 March 2019

Start Date October 2019

Apply Now

Informal enquiries about this studentship are welcome and may be directed by email to: M2A@swansea.ac.uk