Preventing the corrosion of iron in inaccessible structures requires a coating method that reaches all surface areas and creates a uniform protective layer. An ages old practice to protect iron artefacts is to coat them with animal fat, that is, a mixture of lipids. This “method” is accidentally ingenious: some natural phospholipids found in animal fat have the potential to form a tightly packed self-assembled monolayer on metal oxide surfaces, similar to the surfactant monolayers that have attracted increasing attention lately. Thus, the most primitive corrosion prevention method may point at a way to coat complex iron structures in an industrial environment. Here the ability of phosphatidic acid, a natural lipid, to coat and protect iron surfaces was examined. Iron coated quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) sensors were used for the experiments, to monitor the deposition of the lipid as well as the acidic corrosion (dissolution) of iron in situ, in real time. The sensors were coated by self-assembled monolayers of di-myristoyl phosphatidic acid using the liposome deposition method. In this process, 50-100 nm vesicles formed by the lipid are delivered in an aqueous solution and spontaneously coat the iron surfaces upon contact. QCM and ellipsometry measurements confirmed that continuous bilayer and monolayer surface coatings can be achieved by this method. QCM measurements also confirmed that the layers were corrosion resistant in 0.01M acetic acid solution that would dissolve the thin iron layer in minutes in the absence of the protective coating. XPS results suggested a chemisorption-based mechanism of phosphatidic acid attachment to the iron surface. Hence, liposome deposition of phosphatidic acid offers a suitable solution to coat iron surfaces in inaccessible structures in situ.
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