“Two for One! Protect your machinery and the environment”

Chuck Nider, Research Scientist & Technical Business Development ABITEC

Our formulation scientist, Jill, took it on herself to complete and test about 500 samples!  The body of work produced three new products: Accoquat® CS 3000 NF, Ultra NF, and EZ Dry 8000 HF.

Despite my better intuition, I drive a black painted SUV. If you have ever had a black or white painted car, you know where I am going… They are impossible to keep clean!

On a sunny, warmer winter morning, I drove through a local car wash to get the salt dust and winter grim off. The radio was on and I drank my coffee as I traversed the tunnel. My day was off to a good start. The clear water of the rinse and drying aid part of the tunnel drew my eyes to the metal structures… I saw rust!

Car Wash Corrosion

Traffic was light at the car wash and I stopped to have a conversation about the rust with the supervisor.

“I noticed some rust on the drying aid applicator… How long has that been a problem for you?” I asked.

“It’s been getting more noticeable over this winter, problems like this come about in the winter when traffic is light. Corrosion is always an issue when you think about it.” He kindly continued, “The system is older and needs some cosmetic work. There are a few pH changes going on in that tunnel to clean your car, sir. Each area has its own wear pattern…”

I asked him if he could walk me though the tunnel and show me some of the sore spots. “I’m a chemist and a car guy,” I told him, “maybe my team and I can work something out…”

“I am studying chemistry at OSU! My family owns this chain and I work here when I can. Working at the car wash has been fun and I have learned a lot.”

He lit up like a Christmas tree while we talked shop, explaining cleaning chemistry at each section: high pH to remove organics, dirt, and soil; low pH to get off minerals; buffer to bring back to neutral; a microemulsion to apply the drying aid…

What causes iron to rust?

Stuck in traffic, I thought about what causes iron to rust? And how pervasive is this in a car wash tunnel?

  1. Iron rusts more quickly at low pH (acidic environment)
  2. Iron rusts more quickly in contact with ionic solutions
  3. Iron rusts more quickly with less active metals (e.g. copper) and more slowly in contact with more active metals (e.g. zinc)

When I finally arrived at the lab, with fresh coffee, I knew I wasn’t going to change much of the three items above but some chemical modifications might slow oxidation. I looked into the microemulsion aspect and what types of quaternary compounds (quats) are used and what affect this has on corrosion. My reading led me to look at the counter-ions on these quats: the big player uses chloride which has a tendency to promote corrosion of steel and various alloys under acidic (low pH) conditions (1-2). Addressing high concentration of chloride ions at a low pH appeared as an obvious start.

Corrosion Inhibitor Alternatives

For many critical industrial applications like oil and gas, aqueous metalworking fluids, and water treatment systems, corrosion is well documented and chemical controls are numerous (3-4). If you have boilers in your operation, when was the last time you checked the chemical treatments?

Where does the quaternary’s counter ion come in to play, you ask? Corrosion inhibition is a complex mechanism and it related to a species’ redox potential. Redox (reduction/oxidation) potential is a measurement of the tendency of a chemical species to gain or lose electrons to an electrode. Ideally, any good corrosion inhibitor more readily loses electrons compared to a metal. Several studies have indicated that corrosion inhibition efficacy is related to a species ability to be oxidized. Borrowing from our work with rinse cycle fabric softeners, we chose to work with methyl sulfate as our counter ion (5).

Rather than propose adding an expensive corrosion inhibitor to a tunnel system at each step, we asked the quat to do both jobs: make a stable microemulsion and provide better corrosion protection. In common acidic cleaning methods, organic corrosion inhibitors are added to the cleaning solution. These compounds form a thin passive film on the metal surface which effectively blocks the active sites (bare metal) and retards access of the corrosive species to the metal. This mechanism thereby decreases the rate of corrosion (6-7).

New Accoquat® Car Rinse Aids

The formulation team went to work to make a number of stable microemulsions with various oils and hydrophobic liquids. We kept the goal of using methyl sulfate as the counter ion. Our process wasn’t all roses however. We did encounter challenges with oil type and load, freeze-thaw stability, heat stability, and flash point. Our formulation scientist, Jill, took it on herself to complete and test about 500 samples!

The body of work produced three new products: Accoquat® CS 3000 NF, Ultra NF, and EZ Dry 8000 HF.

Our new product line addresses three critical aspects:

  1. Corrosion protection
  2. Employee safety with high flash and non-flash versions
  3. Improved freeze/thaw and heat stability

We did a lot of work so you wouldn’t have to. Let ABITEC’s new improved car spray line be the solution to your challenges!



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  1. Sci Rep 7, 6865 (2017)
  2. Surf Deterg 17: 471-481
  3. Mueller et al. US Patent 0171671 A1, 2008
  4. Chiddix et al. US Patent 2901430, 1959
  5. Oleo Sci. 55(6) : 267-275
  6. Appl Surf Sci 240 :327-340
  7. Electrochem Soc 142 : 2170-2173


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