Photo: Christian Ove Carlsson

PhD Interview: Coatings in harsh environments

Tuesday 03 Jul 18
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PhD students and their research are of great value to DTU Chemical Engineering. We interviewed Victor Buhl Møller about ‘Degradation rates and mechanisms of acid-resistant coatings in copper-leaching tanks’.

The many PhD students at DTU Chemical Engineering are a vital part of the scientific life and community of the department. Victor Buhl Møller defended his PhD thesis ‘Degradation rates and mechanisms of acid-resistant coatings in copper-leaching tanks’ on 8 February 2018.

We asked Victor five questions about his research:

What is the essence of your PhD project?

The project was centered around protective coating technology, for use in very harsh chemical environments. We investigated both the methods and rates of coating failure. In that way, we could develop a better scientific understanding of the underlying mechanisms of coating degradation, and predict how long a coating would last in industrial applications.

The process of agitated leaching of copper ore was used as a case study for investigating the durability of selected coating solutions. In short, the process involved using warm sulfuric acid in a stirred tank, to dissolve finely grinded copper minerals. It is a unique environment, which combines acidic exposure and erosive wear and is tough to contain.

What did you discover during your research?

We were able to outline three main causes of coating failure in the leaching environment: Erosion (wear) of coating, diffusion of chemicals into and through the coating film, and reaction between the exposure chemicals and the coating constituents.

We were able to quantify the speed of failure due to erosive wear and chemical diffusion.

We discovered synergies between the three failure mechanisms that caused the degradation rates to be much faster than when only a single mechanism was involved. For example, the rate of erosion of the different coatings was found to increase by a factor of two to six due to the chemical interactions of sulfuric acid. 

What are the possible wider implications of your research for society?

"The ability to quantify coating degradation speeds is interesting for industry because short term experiments can be used to extrapolate performance of the coating in the long term."
Victor Buhl Møller

The ability to quantify coating degradation speeds is interesting for industry because short term experiments can be used to extrapolate performance of the coating in the long term. This is valuable for the coating industry as their products should last many years to be economically viable while the testing procedure for applicability should be as short as possible to decrease the cost of development. It also allows predictions of coatings lifetime, and can therefore be used as a tool for guaranteeing performance.

The discovery of synergistic relationship between the different modes of coating failure provides a better understanding of expected coating performance and can help reduce the perceived risk of using thin protective coatings rather than an expensive bulk material.


What made you choose applying for a PhD position at DTU Chemical Engineering?

After completing my master thesis (on the same topic), there were so many questions left unanswered, and when I was offered the opportunity to work on the topic, in depth for three years, I had to take it. I have always been driven by my curiosity, and doing a PhD allowed me to satisfy this thirst by investigating and expanding the peripheries of knowledge in the specific field.

 

What does the future hold for you?

After a few months as Post-Doctoral fellow in The Hempel Foundation Coatings Science and Technology Centre, CoaST, I choose to pursue a research and development career at Hempel A/S, and continue my work on coating technologies in an industrial environment. I am now ready to develop cutting edge technologies for the coating industry.

 

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