microZINQ: Corrosion protection and climate protection in harmony

In 2013, nearly 650,000 tonnes of zinc were processed in Germany and a large part of this was imported. Over one-third of the zinc quantities go into galvanising, meaning corrosion protection. Therefore, everything speaks in favour of the economical use of this important raw material. The Gelsenkirchen company Voigt & Schweitzer has developed a thin-film procedure, with which up to 80 per cent of the zinc can be saved. That protects resources and the environment.

Endurance test for guardrails

A long-term test has been taking place along a 150 m long test stretch on the A48 since 2009: The guardrails along the motorway have been coated with the Gelsenkirchen technology and have been under close observation for five years. "Instead of the 60-200 micrometres (µm) usually used, our zinc layers are only 10 µm thick", says Dr. Thomas Pinger, Head of Research, Development and Sustainability at Voigt & Schweitzer. "50,000 tonnes of zinc could easily be saved nationwide in the manufacture of vehicle restraint systems alone". The test section of road in the Eifel region should prove that there are no practical disadvantages caused by the new thin-film procedure. And after five years, the ultra thin zinc layer is still performing to its best: no rust formation, all of the edges are still fully galvanised and the level of zinc erosion into the environment is lower than with conventional procedures. Throughout Germany, the amount of zinc erosion into the environment every year comes to 784 tonnes, with 300 tonnes of this occurring in the area of road equipment alone. There is great hidden potential here for environmental protection.

Engine for progress:

  • approx. 50,000 t of zinc could potentially be saved in the area of vehicle restraint systems alone
  • reduction in the gas requirement at Voigt & Schweitzer by 5 per cent
  • layer stability: lower zinc erosion into the environment
  • creation of approx. 40 jobs at Voigt & Schweitzer

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Photo: Voigt & Schweitzer

Galvanised vehicle components. The zinc layers are more uniform than those produced using the standard procedure, both visually and in regard to thickness. This does not change if the composition of the subsurface is changed either, so the quality is consistently high.

Fewer CO2 emissions in the automotive sector

The thin-film technology, which had already reached market maturity by 2003, was initially used in the automotive sector. Approximately 200g of weight can be saved per vehicle by using the thinner zinc layers. The 5 million vehicles that have, in the meantime, been galvanised using the thin-film procedure can therefore save 8,500 tons of CO2 in their service life. Of course, Voigt & Schweitzer itself also benefits directly from the use of the procedure: Due to the changed composition, the melting point of the alloy is decreased. "Because of this, we have been able to reduce our gas requirement by around 5 per cent", says Pinger. But this is not the end of the story: "Within the EU-funded Technology Competence Network for Surface Treatment Technologies (Technologie-Kompetenz-Verbund für Funktionale Oberflächen, TKV FO), we are pursuing further possibilities for improving the alloy and processes".

inauguration of the microZINQ® galvanizing system video (German)

Voigt & Schweitzer

Photo: Voigt & Schweitzer

"Everyone really benefits from this technology: our company, our customers, the environment and the climate!"

Dr. Thomas Pinger, R&D Manager

Partners and sponsors

  • Voigt & Schweitzer