Ultra-thin with a maximum thickness of 10 µm, this new coating is innovative and particularly effective in improving the functionality and durability of certain industrial materials. "It is a multifunctional carbon-based coating to be deposited on various types of substrates: flat, wired, 3D, smooth, rough" explain Professor Stéphane Lucas (LARN - ICS) and Emile Haye, post-doctoral researcher at the Namur Institute for Structured Matter (NISM). "Its particularity is that it has multiple properties that are generally antagonistic: anti-corrosive, low intrinsic roughness, high hardness, flexible, black, with high electrical conductivity, or antimicrobial. And this coating is capable of retaining all these properties even after mechanical deformation", the two scientists add.
This coating is applicable in a wide range of fields. It can be used in the design of bipolar plates for fuel cells. Thanks in part to its aesthetic qualities, it is also used in luxury watchmaking, or for decorative accessories, such as door handles or tap surfaces. "The colour black in decorative coatings remains a major challenge, particularly in terms of depth of black and durability," says Emile Haye. Finally, the product can also be used in the manufacture of automotive metal parts requiring low friction and corrosion resistance properties.
These applications have already been successfully applied on an industrial scale, with various manufacturers in Wallonia, Flanders and Germany.
A sustainable manufacturing process
The production of this coating is a rather complex process developed with the expertise of LARN, the Department of Physics of UNamur (NISM Institute) and ICS.
The coating is produced using a solid metal source and a gaseous carbon source, by physical vapour deposition or plasma-assisted chemical vapour deposition in a mixture of carbon and argon gases.
The multiple advantages of this process
- Easily implemented on existing machines
- Limited energy impact
- Limited production costs
Discover this unique process in this video
Wide development perspectives
While the applications of this new patented coating are already numerous, other avenues are being explored. The product could be used, for example, in the design of solar absorbers (due to the black colour and durability of the coating), or parts with sliding contact, or as a seed layer for diamond synthesis, or even in the design of prostheses. Researchers at UNamur are actively exploring these possibilities.