The demand for Zinc Nickel coatings continuously increases in the automotive industry. Especially interesting are zinc nickel alloys with a nickel incorporation of 12–16 %, due to their high corrosion protection as well as superior wear and heat resistance as compared to pure zinc and other zinc alloy coatings. Despite many advantages of acid Zn-Ni electrolytes there are still some areas of application, like barrel plating or plating of complex-shaped parts, believed to be reserved for alkaline processes. In this paper zinc nickel coatings deposited from ammonium and boric acid-free acid zinc nickel electrolytes, with improved throwing power for rack and barrel applications are investigated. Their corrosion resistance, ductility and hardness will be presented. Moreover, their texture and morphology will be investigated using SEM, XRD and FIB methods. In the end thickness distribution and Ni-incorporation will be presented and compared to alkaline systems.
Electrodeposited zinc-nickel coatings are broadly used as sacrificial coatings for steel since many years in the automotive industry and for other high corrosion resistant applications. The best corrosion resistance is obtained with ZnNi deposits having 12–15 % Ni in the alloy. Many studies were performed showing the influence of nickel content in the alloy . In industrial plating electrolytes other metals than Zn and Ni can be present. In alkaline zinc-nickel electrolytes mild steel is usually used as anode material. Depending on electrolyte composition and plating conditions more or less iron can be dissolved by anodic dissolution into the electrolyte. It is well known that the iron is codeposited into the zinc nickel alloy, but the effect on the alloy properties was never systematically investigated. In this study the influence of up to 800 mg/L iron in commercially used alkaline zinc nickel processes is investigated. Up to 8 % iron is amorphously codeposited in the alloy. No new iron containing phases could be detected by X-ray diffraction (XRD). ZnNi g-phases (Ni2Zn11/Ni5Zn21) are still the dominant phases, but plain orientation can be affected by iron codeposition. Corrosion properties are investigated by electrochemical measurements and neutral salt spray test. Whereas no huge difference in the corrosion properties between the bare ZnNi and ZnNiFe coatings was observed, the corrosion resistance with a subsequent trivalent chromium passivate can be drastically improved using iron in the alloy.