Issue Date: December 16, 2013 | Web Date: December 13, 2013
Small Business Award: Faraday Technology
Faraday Technology received the Small Business Award for its process to electrodeposit chrome coatings on metals and other materials. The Clayton, Ohio-based firm’s approach uses a low-toxicity trivalent chromium plating electrolyte that bypasses cancer-causing hexavalent chromium.
High-performance chrome coatings plated from a chromium(VI) electrolyte bath provide resistance to abrasive materials and sliding wear in heavy-duty machinery. Although chromium(VI) is now avoided when possible, it’s still the standard for chrome plating in high-performance uses, such as aircraft parts.
In the past, chromium(III) has been used for decorative coatings when only a thin layer of plating was needed, such as on a car bumper. But such coatings aren’t suitable for heavy-duty applications. In addition, the technical limitations of chromium-free replacements have prevented them from providing the performance required for the full range of industrial and military applications. Faraday’s drop-in replacement Trichrome Plating process using chromium(III) meets the performance challenges while avoiding chromium(VI).
The conventional chromium(VI) electrodeposition process uses a constant direct current during the entire process. Faraday designed an electrodeposition process that alternates between a forward (cathodic) pulse followed by a reverse (anodic) pulse and an off period (relaxation). This approach allows for thicker coatings using chromium(III) that can match coatings made from chromium(VI).
Faraday’s technology, as a replacement for the chromium(VI) plating process, could eliminate about 13 million lb of chromium(VI) waste each year in the U.S. and as much as 300 million lb worldwide. The process would also improve worker health and safety.
“Virtually every student passing through organic chemistry and the associated organic lab has learned about chromium-based oxidations, which involve toxic and environmentally egregious hexavalent chromium reagents,” says chemistry professor Bruce H. Lipshutz of the University of California, Santa Barbara, a 2011 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award winner. “Chromium(VI), however, continues to be used extensively in coatings across many industries, including by the military. The search for safer equivalents had not led to a useful candidate, until Faraday Technology came up with this chromium(III) alternative.”
“We are very honored to receive this prestigious award,” says E. Jennings Taylor, Faraday’s chief technical officer. “Faraday has been working on developing a functional chromium coating using green plating chemistry for a number of years. We appreciate the funding we have received from the federal Small Business Innovation Research program, the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences, as well as various industrial partners and stakeholders. The momentum generated from this award will help us accelerate commercial implementation of this green chromium technology.”
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