Maybe this bit of news belongs on my other blog, where I chronicle how economic corrosion is both consuming my home state and creating opportunities to begin anew. But one of many ways nanotech can help communities rise from rotted 20th century infrastructure (both physical and economic) is through new methods of preventing rust.
In the U.S. Department of Defense, the folks in charge of maintaining equipment are well aware of the dangers they face from their invisible, corrosive enemy. A new portal has just been launched, called CorrDefense, to gather and disseminate information on the topic, and on Nov. 13, the Stevens Institute of Technology and NACE International are scheduled to hold a symposium: Nanoscience/Nanotechnology & Corrosion.
I did a little research on rust a couple of years ago when I co-wrote a report for the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) evaluating MEMS and nanotech companies for partnerships in unarmed land vehicles.
Back then, I found out that corrosion of military equipment costs the Defense Department billions of dollars in maintenance and repair every year. So, the Pentagon was placing a priority on funding new technologies to prevent it. For military vehicles, that may mean new, engineered surfaces that protect not only the vehicle, but also the systems that they carry.
Corrosion, of course, is more than skin deep, so the military is seeking new kinds of preservative oil additives that can protect the engine, transmission and drive components during long-term storage.
In the longer term, an ideal coating would not only contain anti-corrosive properties, but also may be embedded with nanoscale sensors that can detect corrosion as it happens, or contain a self-healing coating. While much has been written about this kind of technology, it's not quite ready for prime time.
With the focus of attention and funding these days on "cleantech," maybe some of these applications have progressed further in the past few years.