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The University of Southampton
Rifi An Enterprise Consultancy Unit

Case Study: Environmental friendly metal composites as an alternative to chromium coatings

Objective: Development of metal composite coatings for the replacement of chromium coatings.


  • Hard chromium coatings have established and extensive applications ranging engine components to bright decorative coatings.
  • These coatings are routinely applied to provide an improvement in (i) coating hardness, (ii) surface friction and (iii) wear and corrosion resistance.
  • The current technology in the production of hard chromium coatings requires the use of toxic and carcinogenic chromium (Cr(VI)).
  • EU 'Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive' has restricted the use of Cr(VI) from 2006.
  • What we did

  • Assessed the current production processes and identified market opportunities for metal composites as a replacement for chromium coatings.
  • Applied expert knowledge in electrodeposition and tribology characterisation to synthesise metal composite coatings.
  • A range of nanosize particles has been incorporated into a nickel matrix, e.g. nanotubular titanates in (a) and nanospheriodal silicon carbide particles in (b).
  • Impact

  • Demonstrated that nickel coatings containing a second phase of nanosize particles could be a possible replacement coating for hard chromium.
  • Tribology tests on the nickel composite coatings have shown promising and comparable properties to hard chromium.
  • These coatings are currently being assessed for commercial scale up by one of the UK's leading coating specialists.
  • Nanotubular titanates
    Nanotubular titanates
    Nanospherical silicon carbide particles
    Nanospherical silicon carbide

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