Development and Implementation of Sol-Gel Coatings for Aerospace Applications
A family of water-based sol-gel coatings has been developed as an environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional aerospace finishing materials and processes. The sol-gel hybrid network is based on a reactive mixture of an organo-functionalized silane with a stabilized zirconium complex. Thin films of the material self-assemble on metal surfaces, resulting in a gradient coating that provides durable adhesion for paints, adhesives, and sealants. Use of the novel coating as a surface pretreatment for the exterior of commercial aircraft has enabled environmental, health, and safety benefits due to elimination of hexavalent chromium, and flight test and early fleet survey data support the laboratory observations that the sol gel coating reduces the occurrence of “rivet rash” adhesion failures. Modifications of the basic inorganic/organic hybrid network have yielded multifunctional coatings with promise for applications such as corrosion control and oxidation protection.