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Beyond traditional coatings: a review on thermal-sprayed functional and smart coatings

Tejero-Martin, D.; Rezvani Rad, M.; McDonald, A.; Hussain, T.

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D. Tejero-Martin

M. Rezvani Rad

A. McDonald

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Professor of Coatings and Surface Engineering


Thermal spraying has been present for over a century, being greatly refined and optimized during this time. It has become nowadays a reliable and cost-efficient method to deposit thick coatings with a wide variety of feedstock materials and substrates. Thermal-sprayed coatings have been successfully applied in fields such as aerospace or electricity production, becoming an essential component of today’s industry. To overpass the traditional capabilities of those coatings, new functionalities and coherent responses are being integrated, opening the field of functional and smart coatings. The aim of this paper is to present a comprehensive review of the current state of functional and smart coatings produced using thermal spraying deposition. It will first describe the different thermal spraying technologies, with a focus on how different techniques achieve the thermal and kinetic energy required to form a coating. It will as well focus on the environment to which feedstock particles are exposed in terms of temperature and velocity. It will first deal with the state-of-the-art functional and smart coatings applied using thermal spraying techniques; a discussion will follow on the fundamentals on which the coatings are designed and the efficiency of its performance; finally, the successful applications both current and potential will be described. The inherent designing flexibility of thermal-sprayed functional and smart coatings has been exploited to explore exciting new possibilities on many different fields. Some applications include, but not limited to, prevention of bacteria contamination and infection on hygienic environments. Here, thermal spray has been used to efficiently deposit antimicrobial compounds on medical furniture and appliances and to develop biocidal and biocompatible coatings for prosthetic implants. The attachment of hard and soft foulers such as algae or molluscs, which represents a considerable issue for any marine or freshwater installation, can be prevented on components where the use of traditional anti-fouling strategies such as paints is not optimal for certain materials (i.e., polymers). Another interesting approach pursued is the development of superhydrophobic surfaces, with contact angles as high as 160° and slide angles below 5°, leading to high droplet mobility. This adds capabilities as self-cleaning or corrosion resistance in addition to the characteristic robustness of thermal-sprayed coatings. The electric and magnetic properties of the feedstock materials have also led to the application of thermal spraying techniques in the creation of patterned structures with desired electromagnetic properties for their use on microelectronics. The possibility to intercalate layers of thermal-sprayed materials doped with optical-reactive elements has led to the development of online and offline temperature sensors which can be readily integrated in current thermal barrier coatings. To finalize the examples of the many applications of thermal-sprayed functional and smart coatings, autonomous self-healing or self-lubricant coatings have been developed. Advantage has been taken of a beneficial phase transformation triggered by the corresponding event (such as a crack or the tribological interactions, respectively) to promote self-healing. Another approach has been the release of an encapsulated component which effectively heals the coating or provides lubrication when required. All these exciting developments pave the way for the numerous applications that are to come in the next decade, making the field of thermal-sprayed coatings a unique opportunity for research and development.


Tejero-Martin, D., Rezvani Rad, M., McDonald, A., & Hussain, T. (2019). Beyond traditional coatings: a review on thermal-sprayed functional and smart coatings. Journal of Thermal Spray Technology, 28(4), 598–644.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 22, 2019
Online Publication Date Apr 9, 2019
Publication Date 2019-04
Deposit Date Apr 12, 2019
Publicly Available Date Apr 12, 2019
Journal Journal of Thermal Spray Technology
Print ISSN 1059-9630
Electronic ISSN 1544-1016
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 28
Issue 4
Pages 598–644
Keywords Anti-fouling; Antimicrobial; Cold spray; Detonation gun spray; Flame spray; Functional coating; HVOF spray; Hydrophobic; Joule heating; Multilayered coating systems; Plasma spray; Self-healing; Self-lubrication; Sensor; Smart coating; Thermal spray coatin
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