AFRL Equipped for White House Materials Genome Initiative Plan

A wide range of Air Force platforms and components undergo industrial cleaning processes that are routinely performed at military maintenance, repair, and overhaul facilities, including Air Logistics Complexes (ALCs).

To adhere to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for solvents containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), and ozone-depleting substances, these facilities have transitioned to less hazardous cleaning chemicals.

However, several of those substances are now subject to reporting, largely due to emitting greenhouse gases (GHGs). As a result, AFRL is looking at new technological solutions for VOC-, HAP-, and GHG containing solvents which includes ionic liquid (IL) solvents as a potential alternative.

Evaluation

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Energy and Environment (E2) Program has identified and critically evaluated ionic liquid solvents as replacement technology for current cleaning processes at ALCs. AFRL E2 completed a preliminary analysis of ALC requirements and current baseline processes, and a technology assessment was conducted to document currently available IL solvents recommended for cleaning processes.

The Air Force Research Laboratory Energy and Environment Program has identified EMIM acetate as a replacement industrial cleaner. Here the EMIM is used in immersion cleaning with use of ultrasonic agitation. (Courtesy Photo)

The Air Force Research Laboratory Energy and Environment Program has identified EMIM acetate as a replacement industrial cleaner. Here the EMIM is used in immersion cleaning with use of ultrasonic agitation. (Courtesy Photo)

Testing was performed to evaluate alternative solvents in both wiping and immersion cleaning applications. Additionally, substrate and process compatibility testing was conducted with the most promising alternative solvents.

The solvents were subjected to the U.S. Army solvent cleaning power test for immersion cleaning with the use of ultrasonic agitation. The 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium (EMIM) acetate outperformed the other alternatives and baseline products.

It also produced a byproduct of skimmable grease, indicating a potential for solvent recycling at military cleaning facilities which equates to reduced procurement costs. As a result, EMIM acetate is being considered as a safer alternative solvent to vapor degreasing operations at ALCs.

About the Systems Support Division

The Systems Support Division provides quick reaction materials and processes (M&P) support to a wide range of Air Force customer organizations, including Air Logistics Complexes, Operational Commands, laboratories, product centers and test ranges. The Division conducts development programs to satisfy customer needs and ensure effective and timely use of conventional and advanced M&P.

From the Air Force Research Laboratory Materials and Manufacturing Directorate
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