Chrome plating typically involves pre-treatment with hexavalent chromium, an established carcinogen or substance that causes cancer, in order to facilitate adherence of the chrome. Aside from the obvious health and environmental benefits of finding an alternative to hexavalent chrome, the substance is facing a ban in the near future making the development of new technology more pressing than ever. EU researchers designed the project ‘The development of a novel hexavalent chrome free environmentally sustainable pre treatment for plastic surfaces using molecular self assembly nano technology’ (Ecosam) to address this important problem. Project members developed a new process based on molecular self-assembly enabling pre-treatment of plastic polypropylene without the use of hexavalent chromium. The process ensured stable and secure surface adhesion of subsequent chrome plating while reducing the amount of waste chemicals produced, providing additional environmental and safety benefits. Furthermore, the process required fewer expensive palladium catalysts and fewer process steps, resulting in an overall cost reduction of 50 %. Thus, the Ecosam project significantly improved the process of chrome plating of plastics, developing new methodologies avoiding the use of a known carcinogen likely to be banned in the near future. Commercialisation of the process promises major benefits to people and the environment as well as significant cost reductions, further enhancing competitiveness of EU companies in the sector.
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