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Title: Chromium-free conversion coating of aluminium-copper alloys
Author: George, Faith Olajumoke
ISNI:       0000 0004 2698 6533
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2011
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Aluminium alloys are frequently pre-treated by a conversion coating before application of an organic coating in order to improve the corrosion resistance and adhesive properties of the surface and the corrosion resistance provided by the system. Chromate-containing conversion coatings are commonly used for this purpose. However, legislation limits future use of hexavalent chromium compounds due to their toxic and carcinogenic nature. Therefore, alternative, so-called chromium-free conversion coatings are being developed that are more environmentally-compliant.The purpose of the present work has therefore been to contribute to a better understanding of how the aluminium substrate affects the formation and properties of conversion coatings for adhesive bonding. In particular, a chrome-free zirconium-based conversion treatment process has been investigated as a possible replacement for conventional chromate conversion treatment. The influence of the conversion time on the thickness of the formed layer on pure aluminium was investigated using complementary surface analytical techniques. The conversion time was varied between 30 and 600 seconds.In this study, the structure and composition of zirconium-based chromium-free conversion coatings on magnetron sputtered superpure aluminium and a range of aluminium-copper alloys were characterised as a function of immersion time in the aqueous conversion bath to understand the mechanism of coating formation and protection. However, the presence of copper significantly influences the coating development and ultimately the performance of the conversion coatings formed on binary copper-containing aluminium alloys.The morphology and composition of the coatings have been probed using transmission electron microscopy, Rutherford backscattering spectroscopy and glow discharge optical emission spectroscopy, with loss of substrate through growth of the conversion coating also quantified. A comparison of the RBS spectra obtained for the superpure aluminium specimens after different immersion times revealed that zirconium (Zr) and oxygen (O) peaks were wider for longer immersion times, indicating thickening of the coating with increased immersion times. Thus, increasing the immersion time resulted in an increase in coating thickness but little change in coating composition occurred as determined by the RBS RUMP simulations. Alloying decreases the coating thickness, as well as metal consumption. Here, aspects of the corrosion behaviour of superpure aluminium and aluminium-copper alloys were also considered using electronoptical, electrochemical and surface analytical probing. The influence that short and prolonged treatment times exert on the performances of such conversion coating is discussed. The conversion coating formed after 60 s and 180 s of immersion in the zirconium-based conversion coating bath provide good corrosion resistance which can be attributed to the high stability of the compounds that constitute the surface oxide layer, and good adhesion properties.
Supervisor: Thompson, George Sponsor: Partly sponsored by The Corrosion and Protection Centre, The University of Manchester
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Aluminium alloys ; Conversion coatings ; Filiform corrosion ; Salt spray testing