Zinc based composite coatings as an alternative to electrodeposited cadmium
Cadmium coatings are currently applied to steel fasteners used in aerospace applications. At present there are growing concerns, based on cadmium's toxicity and carcinogenicity, which may lead to its eventual banning. The aim of this research, therefore, was to find a possible replacement to electrodeposited cadmium for use on aerospace fasteners. Any replacement coating system should have all of the relevant properties that make cadmium so attractive, but without its obvious shortcomings. These beneficial properties include excellent corrosion resistance in chloride containing media (such as seawater), the ability to offer sacrificial protection to steel, excellent galvanic compatibility with most aluminium alloys and an inherent lubricity. Alternatives proposed and produced in this research are electrodeposited composite coatings containing PTFE particles, based on zinc or zinc alloys. Extensive analysis was carried out in order to characterise the coatings. Composition was determined by a number of methods; gravimetric analysis was used to determine the percentage of codeposited PTFE, while X-ray and X-ray wavelength energy dispersive analysis were used to determine the percentage of alloy element present in these coatings. Coating morphology was investigated by scanning electron microscopy. The sacrificial corrosion performance of each coating in relation to steel was studied using neutral salt-spray tests, while linear polarisation resistance tests gave an indication of their barrier corrosion properties. Galvanic compatibility of the coatings with aerospace grade aluminium alloys was investigated using a zero resistance ammeter. Two different tribological tests, an inclined plane test and a reciprocating wear test, were used to determine the coefficient of friction for the coatings. Finally, linear sweep voltammetry was used to compare the kinetics of electrodeposition from dilute solutions and corrosion in aqueous media for each of the coating systems. The composite coatings were found to offer either similar or slightly reduced corrosion performance to conventional zinc and zinc alloy coatings, but were inferior to commercially electrodeposited cadmium. However, the tribological properties of these coatings demonstrated a marked improvement over cadmium.