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NEWS | Sept. 16, 2020

Warfare Centers Collaborate with Industry to Address Navy Ship Combat Systems Corrosion

By Latasha Ball NSWC Port Hueneme Division

NSWC PHD Lead Materials Engineer Armen Kvryan and several allies are using a unique strategy to take on a long-time enemy of Navy ships—corrosion.

"Corrosion is a big issue for the Navy and combat systems because it's so aggressive in the marine environment,” Kvryan said. “With these assets, corrosion happens quicker than what we anticipate, and (once affected), the asset either stops working properly or stops working altogether."

Kvryan is joining forces with PHD’s Fathomwerx Lab, Camarillo-based Matter Labs and Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division (NSWCCD) to hold a competition that will help find coatings that mitigate and control corrosion aboard Navy ships and shed light on the damaging conditions. The entities are calling the competition a Rust-A-Thon.

"I'm doing this competition for a specific Navy application which needs a coating that can resist corrosion in extreme environments," Kvryan said.

While a specific purpose is driving the need for the Rust-A-Thon now, corrosion has been an ongoing issue for the Navy and combat systems. Kvryan, Fathomwerx and NSWCCD are excited to tackle the problem head-on using a competition as a unique way to find a potential solution to address the Navy’s need.

"Corrosion is so important to the Navy because ships travel on and are exposed to salt water all the time; plus, water splashes onto the top of the deck, and that’s a problem because salt accelerates rust, and we don't want rusty ships,” Kvryan said.

The competition involves testing how the different coatings perform in simulated oceanic conditions that replicate what Naval ships experience.

More than five universities and companies doing anti-corrosion research are participating in the competition, which works like this: Kvryan sends metallic panels to each organization to apply their coating to the panel. Then, they return the coated panels to Kvryan. He will then test the panels with the coatings along with Fathomwerx and NSWCCD, which is considered a Navy corrosion expert.

"We at PHD's Office of Technology materials team are constantly supporting different line codes and departments, and we try to do as much outreach to the community as possible, so we know what is around us and their capabilities," Kvryan said. "This helps us to make that connection between research, innovation and development, and bridge that transition to the fleet and support the warfighter directly."

According to Jay Ong, head of the corrosion and coatings engineering branch for NSWCCD, the testing process includes conducting the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) B117 salt fog testing, which he said will provide information on how well the coated metals resist corrosion.

“I think one of the aspects about corrosion control for the Navy that is often lost on people is that we expect much more out of our coating systems than commercial industry,” Ong said. "We might need to get triple the amount of service life out of a coating for it to be viable than what the commercial industry needs, which changes the playing field rather substantially."

Matter Labs Chief Executive Officer Bryan Went said the Rust-A-Thon will also test other conditions of these coatings including anti-heat, and the ability to harden materials to handle aesthetic weather like heat and cold in later tracks.

His goal for the competition is to find the right solution for the right application.

"My goal is to find the best solution for the Navy and the Port of Hueneme, as well as provide an opportunity for people to demonstrate their abilities, and then they can decide what works best for them," Went said.

Kvryan said his goal is to have test results from the Rust-A-Thon available in the next few months. Once he and the partnering entities have finished the competition and testing, Kvryan will explain to the participants how their products performed. Kvryan and the group will then consider which product could become a potential solution for the Navy.

Finding a product or solution that stops or even helps reduce rust and corrosion would help the Navy get ahead of this battle, which will ultimately improve the capability of the warfighter, Kvryan said

"We want fully functioning clean ships," he explained, regardless of which entity has the best solution.