The Effects of Hydrophobic Coatings on an Insulative Skirt Layer to Decouple Galvanic Corrosion Between Mechanically-Coupled Aluminum Alloy and Carbon-Fiber Reinforced Polymer-Matrix Composites

Wednesday, October 14, 2015: 17:20
102-A (Phoenix Convention Center)
R. Srinivasan, L. H. Hihara (University of Hawaii at Manoa), and J. Nelson (University of Hawaii at Manoa)
Lightweight metals such as aluminum (Al) are being frequently coupled to polymer-matrix composites (PMCs) to reduce weight and improve performance in a multitude of applications in the defense, aerospace, automotive and civil-infrastructure industries. The intimate contact of carbon-fiber reinforced (CFR) PMCs with Al alloys can result in galvanic corrosion of the Al alloys. The electrically conductive carbon fibers in the CFR PMCs serve as cathodes and induce galvanic corrosion of the Al.

The galvanic corrosion between 6061-T6 Al and CFR PMC can be effectively attenuated by decoupling Al from CFR PMC using an insulating skirt layer. The deposition of salts on the insulative skirt, however, can create a continuous ionically-conductive electrolyte film that can bridge the CFR PMC and Al, thus reducing the effectiveness of the skirt.  The utilization of hydrophobic coatings on the skirt can help to attenuate galvanic corrosion by breaking up the continuous electrolyte film.

In this study, the effect of hydrophobic coatings on insulative skirt materials was investigated to attenuate galvanic corrosion between mechanically coupled 6061-T6 Al and CFR PMC.  Experiments were conducted in accelerated laboratory and outdoor conditions. The galvanic corrosion rates were monitored for coatings of different degrees of hydrophobicity, various skirt lengths, and exposure conditions and.

Initially, the galvanic corrosion rates for couples with different insulating-skirt lengths coated with a silane-based ceramer (i.e., Siloxel) were monitored in a humidity chamber at 30o C and 90% RH over a period of up to 3 days using the zero resistance ammeter (ZRA) technique. The couples were sprayed with salt solutions of different concentrations.  Results from this accelerated humidity ZRA experiment showed that a skirt length of only 0.5 inch was very effective in attenuating galvanic corrosion.  To study the effectiveness of different coatings, specimens were fabricated with a 0.5-inch long skirt and coated with either Siloxel, epoxy, polyurethane or latex. The resulting galvanic corrosion rates were then compared.

The two best coatings in attenuating galvanic corrosion (i.e., Siloxel and polyurethane) were selected for outdoor exposure. CFR PMC/Al galvanic couples with 0.5 inch insulating skirts (with either the Siloxel or polyurethane coatings, or no coatings) were exposed at rain forest (Manoa) and severe marine (MCBH) environments for 2 months. The CFR PMC/Al galvanic specimens at the severe marine site were exposed in two conditions: sheltered and unsheltered. The sheltered specimens were subjected to significant salt build up; whereas, the unsheltered specimens were subjected to cleansing effects of rain. The effect the salt deposition characteristics on galvanic corrosion between the sheltered and the unsheltered conditions was studied.