Investigation of delamination mechanisms in polymer coatings by scanning acoustic microscopy
Scanning acoustic microscopy (SAM) was used to investigate disbonding, delamination and blister formation in polymer coatings for different layer structures and initial defect depths during exposure to a corrosive environment. The time evolution of disbonding and blister initiation and their growth was investigated by analysing the SAM images, taken after defined times of exposure to an electrolyte solution (Harrison solution). From investigations of a model system of coatings on steel substrates, it was possible to differentiate between water and/or ion transport (i) through the coating and (ii) along the coating-steel interface. For samples without clear coat randomly distributed blisters appeared at the coating-steel interface after exposure to the electrolyte solution, irrespective of the location of initial defects. The random distribution of growing blisters is related to diffusion of water and/or ions through the coating and 'nucleation' at weak points of the sub strate or within the polymer. For samples with clear coat a propagating migration front along the coating-steel interface of 3-4m height-starting from initial defects-was detected. The linear propagation of this front cannot be explained by Fickian diffusion. Therefore, it is discussed in terms of an accelerated diffusion or crack growth kinetics. Since blistering starts only at sites, where the migration front has passed, the presence of a thin water layer at the coating-steel interface, the loss of adhesion and the following corrosive processes are prerequisites for the nucleation of blisters. The blister growth shows a square-root time dependence.