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Coating processes are extensively used in the defense and aerospace sector. For example, they are used to enhance performance, reliability, and durability of a wide range of components; to resist sliding and fretting wear, erosion or to enhance surface quality; and to create corrosion-resistant coatings to resist oxidation, exfoliation, pitting, and hot corrosion.
The Products Currently in Development
Multi-functional nanocoatings are now being developed for use in the aerospace sector. These nanocoatings detect mechanical damage and corrosion of aircraft skin, trigger responses to the perceived damage (physical and chemical), and offer protection against corrosion using environmentally safe materials. They also enhance fatigue resistance and display color whenever required, and also achieve improved adhesion using environmentally compliant materials.
Thermally stable, high-strength, and lightweight nanomaterials are usually preferred in aircraft engines. Currently, the overall engine market is estimated to be £259 billion (Rolls Royce).
The Coatings Involved in the Defense Industry
Applying traditional paints in the defense sector is not only exhausting but also dangerous for the people working in this industry. Moreover, a majority of these coatings have to be manually touched-up, which can conceal damage caused to the metal or any other substrate material.
Therefore, the overall cost of the corrosion-related problems in the U.S. Department of Defense amounts to $10 billion per year, of which $2 billion is associated with painting as well as paint-scraping operations.
At present, around 20% of army vehicles are not working because of the damage to coatings, and repainting requirements.
The Use of Smart Coatings in the Future
Smart coatings can allow scratched or corroded military vehicles to detect and heal on their own. Vehicles are also likely to change color on the battlefield, producing immediate camouflage and thus making it hard to detect tanks and other military vehicles.