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Title: Mechanistic origins of corrosion protection of aluminum alloys by graphene/polyetherimide nanocomposite coatings

Light-weighting vehicular components through adoption of light-metal structural alloys holds promise for reducing the fuel consumption of internal combustion engine vehicles and increasing the range of battery electric vehicles. However, the alloyed microstructure and surface precipitates of aluminum alloys render these materials susceptible to corrosion under modest excursions from neutral pH. Traditional chromium-based anodic passivation layers are subject to increasingly stringent environmental regulations, whereas options for sacrificial cathodic films are sparse for electropositive metals. While hybrid nanocomposite coatings have shown initial promise, mechanistic underpinnings remain poorly understood. Here, a fully imidized polyetherimide (PEI) resin is utilized as the continuous phase with inclusion of unfunctionalized exfoliated graphite (UFG). A comprehensive investigation of the mechanisms of corrosion protection reveals key fundamental design principles underpinning corrosion inhibition. First, strong interfacial adhesion, which for PEI is facilitated by binding of imide carbonyl moieties to Lewis acidic sites on Al surfaces. Second, the miscibility of ion-impervious nanoscopic UFG fillers and stabilization of a substantial interphase region at UFG/PEI boundaries that result in minimizing the free volume at the filler/polymer interface. Finally, extended tortuosity of ion diffusion pathways imbued by the below-percolation-threshold 2D fillers. These three design principles help govern and modulate ion transport from electrolyte/coating interfaces to the coating/metal interface and are crucial for the extended preservation of barrier properties. The results suggest an approach to systematically activate multiple modes of corrosion inhibition through rational design of hybrid nanocomposite coatings across hard-to-abate sectors where light metal alloys are likely to play an increasingly prominent role.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
Nature Publishing Group
Date Published:
Journal Name:
npj Materials Degradation
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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