Activities & Expertise

Nano matters

To understand our world, we need to analyse it. And we need to do this for many reasons, safety being one of them.
OCAS has acquired a lot of experience in product safety over the last several years. To comply with safety regulations, accurate measurements are required on the release of toxic substances during the entire lifetime of the product. This may comprise high-end organic analyses as well as nanometric studies of dust. Failure analysis is also a matter of safety – this enables us to understand failure and to prevent it in the future. OCAS uses a wide range of equipment to carry out failure analysis. From a simple optical microscope to find point defects, to depth profiling equipment for coating analyses, to atomic resolution to understand bonding mechanisms.

In the development and successful deployment of new steel grades, metal alloys and associated coatings or surface technologies, it is ever more important to control the microstructure and surface conditions in the (sub)nanometre range. At the same time, elucidating these structures is becoming more and more complicated due to their size and composition.

OCAS’s broad array of equipment enables us to tackle various problems from different angles: The combination of high-end microscopic techniques leads to further understanding of material behaviour.

Related expertise to this activity

OCAS develops new functional and aesthetic surfaces for any metal substrate to meet your specific requirements. Our skilled staff can rely on state-of-the-art equipment to prepare, apply and characterise different coatings: organic, inorganic, metallic, hybrid and/or enamel coatings. Our aim is to optimise your surface functionality, lower your production cost and make your product more environment-friendly.

The complete coating and enamelling process can be simulated in our laboratory, using a wide range of technologies. The first step is the pre-treatment of substrates including for example degreasing, pickling, phosphating and passivation. Coatings are then applied by electrodeposition, spraying (wet or powder paints or enamels), dipping, spinning or using a roll coater. A more advanced technique is Chemical Vapour Deposition, allowing the deposition of very thin layers (20-50 nm) on a variety of substrates. Our curing methods include conventional, infrared (IR) and ultraviolet (UV) curing.

We are able to perform the full characterisation and testing of different technological aspects of surfaces from macro to micro and even to nanoscale: flexibility, adhesion, hardness, wear and staining resistance, colour, gloss, appearance, etc. Both outdoor exposure racks as well as accelerated corrosion cabinets are available to check the corrosion behaviour and durability of materials and coatings, including the evaluation of buried structures in different soil types.

In addition to these standardised tests, we are also equipped to perform electrochemical measurements using impedance spectroscopy, Scanning Vibrating Electrode Technique (SVET) and Scanning Kelvin Probe (SKP). Read more about how our scanning flow micro-cell boosts our study of fundamental corrosion reactions.

OCAS’s expertise in alloy and coating design, metal surface engineering, non-standard testing and modelling supplements Endures’s current knowledge on corrosion, electrochemistry, MIC (microbiologically influenced corrosion), antifouling and protective coatings. The Endures team of experts helps its customers to reduce their corrosion costs by selecting appropriate materials and protecting structures in marine and corrosive environments. Endures conducts applied research on vessels, offshore installations and land-based structures and buildings to determine the type of corrosion damage, including MIC (microbiologically influenced corrosion), and to prevent future damage. Based in the harbour of Den Helder, Endures has a C3/C4 seaside testing location to expose samples to maritime exposure conditions both aerial and immersed, as well in the tidal or splash zone. Endures also has a raft for efficacy tests of antifouling paints and can carry out lab experiments in running natural seawater.

Together with Flanders Materials Centre (FLAMAC), a division of SIM, we make an accelerated development of new coatings possible, thanks to the high-throughput experimentation technology. Specific software and equipment allows fast and precise preparation of the formulations. The High Throughput Technology is based on an automated formulation, application and curing of coatings. This quick screening not only allows for cost reduction. It also reduces the research time to obtain the perfect coating for your application, thus reducing your time-to-market. Explore Flamac's high-throughput experimentation technology service.

We develop your tailor-made alloys in small batches, from 100 g to 100 kg. Specifically for the development of new steel grades or special alloys, we can simulate an entire industrial production process on laboratory scale. This includes casting, hot and cold rolling, and annealing. Our production process for customised casting and rolling of metal alloys can be scaled up to an industrial environment. Recently, we automated our heavy gauge lab rolling mill and cooling pilot.

OCAS adapted one of its lab rolling mills to be able to switch to “bar mode”. Straight round bars with good ovality can be obtained. The lab bar rolling is compatible with OCAS’s lab casting tools. As such, the composition of the bars can be tailored to the client’s needs.

Apart from smart materials selection, we have experience in advanced materials testing and characterisation.

Our aim is to help you reduce your development cost (as there is less need for expensive industrial trials), to optimise your process and to enhance material properties. 

Enamelled steel is a perfect blend of tradition and high-tech environmentally-friendly innovation. The green alternatives not only reduce enamelling's carbon footprint, they also reduce the cost of the customer's process. In the past few years, OCAS has developed a number of novelties allowing to skip oiling and thus degreasing; to reduce the firing time and temperature; to combine good formability with a perfect surface and reduced fish-scale sensitivity.

The outlook for enamel-based technology is very promising indeed. Encouraged by enamel's excellent durability, appearance and recyclability, OCAS's researchers are currently working on a new enamel concept. This future product would be durable, ecological, light-weight and easy to shape -  at an affordable price. The concept of a REACH-compliant thin glass layer on steel scores peak life cycle analysis performance and has great potential to become a game-changing innovation.

OCAS can simulate the complete enamelling process in its lab, followed by an in-depth characterisation and testing of the in-use properties in-house. Our skilled staff can rely on state-of-the-art equipment to develop, prepare, apply and characterise different enamel coatings. 

Long term energy requirements, combined with the changing climate highlight the importance of developing non-fossil fuels. Although the "hydrogen economy" is not yet a fact, significant efforts are being made to design steel grades that  can be used to safely generate, store and transport hydrogen. However, to develop new materials with the necessary resistance to hydrogen, it's crucial to understand the mechanisms of hydrogen embrittlement and the interactions with microstructure.

OCAS has a dedicated hydrogen lab to study the fundamental mechanisms related to hydrogen embrittlement, and test set-ups for both hydrogen-induced cracking (HIC) and sulphide stress corrosion cracking (SSCC), as well as disk rupture test equipment using gaseous hydrogen at high pressures. A lot of competence has been developed over these past few years in terms of methodology, knowledge building, modelling and understanding the hydrogen embrittlement phenomenon.

Being involved in various projects on the effects of hydrogen on steel - from internal development projects and technical services to funded knowledge building projects with various European research institutes - OCAS took the initiative to organise the very first conference dedicated to steel and hydrogen in Europe. After the successful SteelyHydrogen2011 Conference, the scope was broadened and the attendance at the second and third SteelyHydrogen2014 and SteelyHydrogen2018 conferences, again organised by OCAS, confirmed that hydrogen is considered a crucial topic for developments in the steel and other alloys in the next decade. OCAS is pleased to announce that we are currently preparing the 4th edition of SteelyHydrogen2021 .