NRL-led Program Awarded Project of the Year

3/16/2004 - 12-04r
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Mr. Bruce Sartwell, of NRL's Surface Chemistry Branch, received the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program Project-of-the-Year Award for his work on replacement of hard chrome plating on aircraft landing gear using high-velocity oxygen-fuel (HVOF) thermal spray coatings. The award was presented at the Plenary Session of the Annual Symposium of the Strategic Environmental Research & Development Program (SERDP) and the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program.

The goal of the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program is to demonstrate and validate promising, innovative technologies that target the most urgent environmental needs of the Department of Defense (DoD). These technologies provide a return on investment through cost savings and improved efficiency. The current cost of environmental remediation and regulatory compliance in DoD is significant. At any given time, the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program funds between 50 and 60 different projects in the areas of cleanup, compliance, pollution prevention, and unexploded ordinance.

The landing gear project has been one of several projects conducted by the Hard Chrome Alternatives Technology, or HCAT, team managed by Mr. Sartwell. The objective of the HCAT program is to qualify HVOF thermal spray coatings as a replacement for hard chrome plating on military aircraft components. Hard chrome plating is extensively used by aircraft manufacturers and military maintenance depots to provide wear and/or corrosion resistance or to restore dimensional tolerance to components. Within the DoD, the total value of hard chrome plating operations exceeds $100 million annually. However, chrome plating utilizes hexavalent chromium, which is a highly toxic carcinogen, and increasingly stringent environmental and worker-safety regulations are making chrome plating more expensive for manufacturers and the DoD.

Separate projects have been or are being executed by HCAT to qualify HVOF tungsten carbide/cobalt (WC/Co) and other types of coatings on aircraft landing gear, propeller hubs, gas turbine engine components, hydraulic actuators, and helicopter dynamic components. Extensive materials testing such as fatigue, wear, corrosion, impact, and embrittlement, plus rig and flight testing on actual components, has demonstrated that the HVOF coatings generally exhibit performance characteristics superior to hard chrome. Dr. Paul Natishan and others from the NRL's Center for Corrosion Science and Engineering have been responsible for most of the corrosion testing in the program. Recently, NAVAIR has issued approvals for application of HVOF WC/Co coatings onto landing gear and actuators on P3 aircraft. Approvals are also expected on propeller hub, gas turbine engine, and hydraulic actuator components. The success of the NRL-led program is leading to production implementation of the HVOF technology at the Jacksonville and Cherry Point Naval Aviation depots and at the Ogden, Oklahoma City, and Warner-Robins Air Logistics centers. In addition, HVOF WC/Co coatings are being designed on the landing gear for two of the three versions of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). Pistons on flight control and utility hydraulic actuators on new aircraft such as the JSF are also utilizing HVOF thermal spray coatings.

Cost/benefit analyses conducted as part of the HCAT program have shown that each DoD facility that implements HVOF technology for hard chrome replacement should save several million dollars over a 15-year period. The improved performance of the HVOF WC/Co coatings will increase the time between overhauls, thereby greatly decreasing life-cycle costs on DoD aircraft.

Mr. Sartwell has an Intergovernmental Personnel Act position in the Surface Chemistry Branch within the NRL Chemistry Division. From 1982 to 1994, he was head of the Ion/Plasma Processing Section in the Surface Modification Branch in the former Condensed Matter and Radiation Sciences Division. From 1994 to 2002, he was a research physicist in the Surface Chemistry Branch, where he conducted in-house research on application of plasma arc technology for destruction of shipboard waste and initiated the HCAT program. Prior to coming to NRL, Mr. Sartwell was a division officer on a Navy guided missile destroyer from 1970 to 1973, and was a research physicist and group supervisor at the U.S. Bureau of Mines metallurgy research center in College Park, Maryland.

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