South West Wales

Swansea researcher's discovery to help stop steel rusting

Dr Alex Harold Image copyright Swansea University
Image caption Dr Alex Harold is a TATA Steel UK engineering doctorate student at Swansea University

A Swansea University researcher has won a global competition by coming up with a new way to protect steel from rusting.

Dr Alex Harold used the water resistant properties of a common soil bacteria to make a protective metal coating.

She beat over 5,000 applicants to win the Tata Innovista Award.

Dr Harold said the idea had been "inspired by nature" and will provide a solution to the industrial problem of steel corrosion.

She added it was an "environmentally-friendly" alternative to other steel coatings, without any loss in performance.

Image copyright Swansea University
Image caption A close up of a water drop on water repellent bacteria

She explained the cell surface of a common soil bacteria is not only water resistant, but it protects the organism from desiccation.

It is extracted and dissolved to create a solution that forms a "robust protein coating".

It is less than 10 nanometres thick and able to withstand boiling and freezing temperatures.

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