Industrial piping has a tough life, as it is constantly exposed to liquids that can damage its internal surface over time. A new polymer coating could help protect these pipes, while removing toxic metals from liquids.
Currently under development at Australia’s Flinders University, the coating is “made easy” from an inexpensive mixture of elemental sulfur and a waxy chemical compound known as dicyclopentadiene – the latter is a sub -product of the petroleum refining process.
And unlike some similar coatings that have been created in the past, this one can be made at a relatively low temperature of 140°C (284°F), reducing the chances of runaway reactions out of control.
When applied inside PVC, metal, or concrete pipes, the polymer is believed to form a barrier that protects the underlying material from corrosion and other damage from solvents, acids, or the water. At the same time, it absorbs toxic metals such as mercury from the liquid flowing through the pipe. This quality could make it particularly useful in the oil and gas industry, where remediation procedures require pollutants to be removed from oil and water mixtures.
As a bonus, if the coating is chipped or scratched, the damage can be repaired with the simple application of heat. Specifically, sulfur-sulfur bonds within the polymer break under localized conditions of high heat, but then uniformly reform as the material subsequently cools.
The study is led by research associate Max Mann and also involves scientists from Britain’s University of Liverpool. It is described in an article recently published in the journal Polymer chemistry.