Inframat® Corporation is a pioneer in the production of nanomaterial feedstocks for the application of nanocoatings by the industrial technique of thermal spray. There is a growing need for advanced surface treatment of machine parts in use under various conditions in today’s industry. However, nanoparticle or superfine powders cannot be successfully thermal sprayed because of their low mass and their inability to be carried in a moving gas stream and deposited on a substrate. Realizing the potential high performance of nanostructured materials in engineered coating applications, Inframat has developed patented processes for the thermal spray of superfine feedstocks by (1) reconstituting nanoparticle powders into spherical micron-sized granules and by (2) producing nanoparticles in flight from an ionic aqueous solution. Thermal spray operations are performed using commercial-off-the-shelf thermal spray systems. These coatings show significant improvements in mechanical properties, including bond strength, toughness, strain tolerance, and wear resistance. Inframat’s nanocoating powder feedstocks include alumina/titania (Al2O3/TiO2), tungsten carbide/cobalt (WC/Co), chromia/titania (Cr2O3/TiO2), and yttria-stabilized zirconia (YSZ), and nanocoating solution feedstocks include aluminum oxide and YSZ.
Inframat’s rapid growth in the development and commercialization of nanocoating feedstock products is attributable to a mix of funding sources, including government R&D contracts, joint development projects with strategic partners, and international joint ventures. Inframat collaborated with the Univ. of Connecticut on an ONR sponsored ($3.5 MM) 5-year program for Navy Shipyard’s repair applications. Inframat was awarded a DoD Dual Use Science and Technology (“DUST”) program, ($400,000) to commercialize thermally sprayed Al2O3/TiO2 nanocoatings for Navy and civilian applications. Inframat was also the PI, in collaboration with Rutgers Univ., for a $2.3 MM 2-years DoD DUST program for thermal spraying WC/Co nanocoatings for both Navy and Civilian applications. The key findings of these nanocoating programs are that the nanostructured ceramic materials possess superior fracture toughness and fatigue life, increased wear resistance, and increased coating to substrate bond strength. The Navy has approved IMC’s plasma sprayed ceramic nanocoating for certification under MIL-STD-1687A, entitled “Thermal Spray Processes for Naval Ship Machinery Applications.” IMC’s Al2O3/TiO2 nanocoatings were recognized by R&D magazine with an R&D100 award in 2001. It also won the Navy’s 2001 annual “DUST” Program award.