Put steel under a powerful microscope, revealing its microstructure, and prepare to be surprised. Known for its strength, the metal will appear pitted and pocked.
"It is intrinsic to the material," says Carolyn Aita, a Wisconsin Distinguished Professor at the University of WisconsinMilwaukee (UWM). "A pit can begin to develop from a physiochemical defect in the steel itself."
The pitting is cause for concern for industry because it can progress and lead to corrosion. But Aita's research can help.
In her state-of-the-art lab at the College of Engineering and Applied Science, she has developed a host of coatings that heal shallow pits and fractures on almost any material from metal to glass to silicon. The coatings also prevent further degradation.
"My coatings are designed to work in adverse environments, such as in salt spray, oil, and high humidity," says Aita. "We design them to address whatever causes damage to the substrate."
Aita has an international reputation in the field of thin films for advanced materials and has been backed by some of the best-known companies in Wisconsin, including Johnson Controls, Badger Meter, Rockwell Automation, CERAC and Kohler. She also has worked with national companies such as DuPont, Rust-Oleum and Digital Equipment.
In fact, Aita's research has been continuously supported by industry a requirement of her Wisconsin Distinguished Professorship since the program was launched by the UW System in 1988.
In her current work, which is funded by a Rockwell Catalyst Grant from the UWM Research Foundation, Aita and four graduate students are creating new coatings that can withstand the corrosion that occurs in metals in an industrial setting.
The work is valuable to its sponsor, Rockwell Automation, a global industrial controls supplier to almost every industry sector.
In addition to natural imperfections,
|Contact: Carolyn Aita|
University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee