"For industry, this could mean moving away from traditional materials like steel – which have high CO2 emissions, sourcing raw materials from sustainable feedstocks, and designing materials that last longer – especially in harsher environments and climates. Businesses are also trying to reduce maintenance requirements, lower health and safety risks and reduce costs."
"Sustainable non-metallic materials coatings for protecting and materials for replacing corroding metals like composites and polymers could be the future of corrosion prevention. In our discussions with industry so far, we have identified that they are already being used in specific applications and at small scales, but it’s currently too risky to roll them out on a large scale."
Bringing experts together
Now, the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Synergy programme could be closing in on solutions to these challenges. The programme invites experts from different industries – including construction, aerospace, pharma and defence – to identify and solve some of the key issues facing industry.
This year the programme has been tackling corrosion – and in October we held a workshop in Burlington House that brought together 22 experts from across industry and academia. The aim was to explore how collaboration across chemistry could improve our understanding of the performance of non-metallic coatings and materials, enabling industries to develop their own solutions for their own markets.
The topics that were covered included how we characterise and test material properties, how we could detect failures before they occur, and how we could predict how materials might degrade.
We used strategic roadmapping – which we have been developing with the Institute of Manufacturing at Cambridge University – to identify big ideas for collaboration in chemistry that could address these challenges.
The key areas identified were:
- Compiling degradation data
- Standard accelerated tests for predicting performance
- Modelling interactions between materials and environments
- Chemistry for recycling
- The circular economy and developing sustainable raw materials.
Facing multi-discipline challenges
Graham Gedge, Associate Director of Materials at Arup, was one of the delegates. He emphasised that collaboration on the big issues facing industry is very important. "The challenges we face are multi-discipline not single discipline,” he said. Chemistry will have a role to play in the solutions, but collaboration with the supply chain, regulators, ultimate users and influencers are much more likely to succeed in an interconnected world than a single discipline approach."
Dr Jo Reynolds, Director of Science and Communities, said: "At the Royal Society of Chemistry, we know that collaboration is essential to the advancement of the chemical sciences, particularly when it comes to solving global challenges. We are particularly proud of our Synergy programme, which brings together the right people with the right expertise to make real chemical advances."
"Next year we will produce a report sharing the outcomes from this initial exploration of the topic of corrosion. We will share this report with the wider community, and continue to work closely with industry to form new collaborations."