A Focus on our PhD Students working on Glass – Emilia Merino

I obtained my Bachelor degree in Chemical Engineering from the Escuela Superior Politecnica del Litoral in Ecuador in 2014. During the following two years, I took the opportunity to develop skills in scientific research by working on environmental protection projects, which were funded by the United Nations Development Program and the International Atomic Energy Agency. These new experiences motivated me to extend my horizon in the field of chemistry, prompting a move to Spain to undertake a Master degree in organic chemistry at Barcelona University, where my final research project involved the synthesis of a chromophore with self-assembly properties using organometallic precursors. Excited by the new skills acquired during this Program and the possibility of further expanding my background in multidisciplinary science with real world applications, I joined the Ceramics and Glass Institute (CSIC) and commenced a Master degree in Molecular Nanotechnology and Nanoscience under the direction of Professor Alicia Durán and Dr Yolanda Castro. My research project was focussed on the development of coatings to improve the corrosion resistance of magnesium alloys using sol-gel processing and an anodization technique. In this work, the optimisation of the anodizing conditions (time and potential) was explored, together with the preparation and deposition of SiO2 sols obtained by hydrolysis and condensation of TEOS and 3-glycidoxypropyltrimethoxysilane precursors.

The promising results opened up to me the tremendous opportunity of undertaking a PhD in the Applied Chemistry Program at the same research Institute, under the direction of Dr Yolanda Castro. The PhD thesis project commenced from the hypothesis that it is possible to develop a multilayer system with selfhealing properties, which can enhance the corrosion resistance of magnesium alloys whose use is limited at larger scale due to their susceptibility to corrosion. This multilayer coating system was proposed as an alternative strategy to replace the well-known chromium conversion layers (CCC), due to the introduction of stricter regulations regarding the use of Cr(VI) in surface treatments because of their adverse impacts on health and the environment. In this context, anodizing combined with sol-gel techniques were identified as efficient and environmentally friendly surface treatments to produce an active-barrier effect against corrosion. Coatings with different morphologies, thicknesses, compositions and adhesion properties have been prepared. My goal is to establish the optimal experimental conditions to obtain an integrated multilayer system with a self-healing effect to enhance the corrosion resistance of magnesium alloys, to facilitate its more widespread use in industries such as aerospace and automotive.