The global leader in industrial and naval paint production has selected Cantabria to further its research into developing new products. The Danish multinational company Hempel has set up test panels at the Marine Corrosion Test Site (MCTS) El Bocal. This testing facility is uniquely located on a cliff north of Santander, offering unparalleled study conditions in Europe due to its real exposure to highly corrosive environments.
The CTC Technology Centre, in partnership with the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO), oversees this offshore laboratory, which will mark its tenth anniversary in 2024. The ability to conduct research in a real marine environment, mirroring the conditions materials will face during their operational lifespan, is the primary advantage of an infrastructure ideal for studying phenomena like corrosion or biofouling. MCTS El Bocal was the most sought-after facility in Europe during the second call of the Marinet 2 network, which encompasses 57 testing facilities across the continent.
The Cantabrian laboratory provides four study conditions based on the exposure level of the samples to the sea. These conditions range from atmospheric to submerged, including splash and tidal environments. In this instance, Hempel is set to evaluate the performance of its coatings in two distinct environments. It uses the atmospheric zone, which is nearest to the surface and does not directly contact water. However, this zone is still influenced by sea spray. It also employs the splash zone, which is not reached by the tide level but is reached by wave splash and sea spray.
The trial will initially span twelve months, during which the samples will be tested under real marine conditions. The data obtained in Cantabria will be much more reliable than those from other laboratories using accelerated tests or simulations.
This study represents the second time the sector’s global leader has used MCTS El Bocal for research. Their first engagement with the facility occurred during the INNOPAINT project, a part of the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness’s Retos Colaboración 2016 programme, funded through FEDER funds. At that time, Hempel led an international consortium, which included CTC, to develop anti-corrosive, intelligent and multifunctional paint-based coatings.
The promising results of this research, along with the uniqueness and international reputation of the facilities, have led to Hempel’s return to the region. Both Hempel and CTC are exploring the possibility of more active collaboration in future maritime-related studies and projects. To further improve conditions, the Cantabrian Technology Centre plans to install a network of sensors in the laboratory. This initiative, part of the SEACOREL project, will enable analysis of the condition of exposed materials without removing them and correlate sea conditions with corrosion effects.
Specifically, CTC has developed a sensor to collect data from exposed materials for the early detection of corrosion, in addition to a monitoring system that analyses and communicates the environmental conditions in the marine laboratory. Thus, by combining information on corrosion progress in the samples with changes in parameters such as pH or temperature, we can predict how the materials will react over time.