The CTMA Functional Trivalent Chrome Validation team, led by NCMS, was honored with winning the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award for 2013 for Small Business. The prestigious award was one of five awards presented at an official award ceremony in Washington DC on December 12th, sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in partnership with the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute.
The award recognized their work in developing a new trivalent chromium plating process to replace the highly toxic and cariogenic hexavalent chromium method of applying a functional chrome coating to aircraft and other military components. Functional hard chrome is required for heavy duty applications to achieve necessary hardness and wear resistance.
There have been various chrome-free replacements investigated but with only partial success due to physical limitations and that preclude widespread adoption. The new trivalent chromium process is expected to be a nearly drop-in replacement for hexavalent chromium and can reduce millions of pounds of hexavalent chromium without comprising performance.
Industry members on the team include Faraday Technology, Inc., The Boeing Company, Messier-Bugatti-Dowty, United Technologies Research Center, Advanced Tooling Corporation, CAI Resources and Chalmer Consulting. DoD activities participating on the team include FRC-East, CCAD, OO-ALC, NAVAIR Patuxent River and Anniston and AMCOM.
The basis of the project is a new electro-deposition plating process developed by Faraday Technology. The new electro-deposition process alternates between a forward (cathodic) pulse followed by a reverse (anodic) pulse and an off period (relaxation). Not only does this process allow for thicker coatings (generally required for functional applications), but can also be adjusted to affect the structure and properties of the coating.
The team has put the new trivalent technology through a myriad of industry and military performance tests. It must perform comparably or better than hexavalent chrome in order to proceed. After careful adjustments to the new process, test samples have shown that the new process can produce a chrome coating equivalent to hexchrome and in some cases, better. Additionally, testing has shown the new trichrome process does not produce any hexchrome as a by-product. And unlike many non-chrome technologies, the new trichrome process can plate inner and outer surfaces of a tube.
During the 18 years of the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge program, EPA has received about 1500 nominations and presented awards to 93 technologies. Winning technologies over the lifetime of the program are responsible for reducing the use or generation of more than 826 million pounds of hazardous chemicals, saving 21 billion gallons of water, and eliminating 7.8 billion pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent releases to air.