Trion Coatings LLC, which owns an environmentally friendly chrome plating process developed in partnership between University of Notre Dame faculty members and a startup company based at the University’s IDEA Center, has sold a minority equity position in Trion’s parent company to Nucor Corp.
As part of its investment, Nucor will work with Trion Coatings to commercialize the technology by building the first commercial facility for the plating process at Nucor Fastener in St. Joe, Indiana. As part of the agreement, Nucor will hold exclusive worldwide license agreement rights for the technology as applied to long steel products.
“We are very excited to invest in this cutting-edge technology, working together with Trion Coatings and the University of Notre Dame to create a much safer work environment, and advancing this to the commercial level,” said John Ferriola, chairman, CEO and president of Nucor Corp. “As the nation’s largest recycler, we are constantly looking for ways increase the sustainability of our business and reduce the impact on our environment.”
Trion Coatings LLC, which incubated at Notre Dame’s IDEA Center, was formed for the purpose of developing an environmentally friendly alternative to hexavalent chromium in the chrome plating process. Developing a safer alternative to hexavalent chromium presents advantages in the market as the global regulatory environment becomes more stringent.
Trion Coatings’ patent-pending process uses trivalent chromium salts and a proprietary ionic liquid solution that offers faster electroplating speeds, improved wear resistance and overall higher performance results than traditional hexavalent chrome, while offering an excellent health and safety profile.
“We believe this technology represents a major advancement in allowing steel manufacturers to produce chrome-plated steel in a way that is efficient, environmentally friendly and safe for workers,” said Doug Morrison, president of Trion Coatings and a 1997 graduate of Notre Dame.
Those credited with developing the technology are Edward Maginn, Dorini Family Professor of Energy Studies and chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Notre Dame; former Notre Dame faculty member Joan Brennecke, now at the University of Texas; Mauricio Quiroz-Guzman, former postdoctoral researcher at Notre Dame and now chief scientist at Trion Coatings; and Patrick Benaben, a noted international electrochemistry expert.
“Trion is a prime example of how research at the University of Notre Dame and the IDEA Center’s commercializing process work in harmony to foster new frontier research and commercialize it to do bold things for the human community,” said Tim Sutherland, chairman of Middleburg Capital Development and a member of Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees. “Our success is a credit to the Trion Coatings founders and scientists who worked diligently and with unwavering commitment to create a chrome coating that will change steel finishing forever while benefiting human health and safety in immeasurable ways.”
Middleburg Capital Development is the majority equity holder of Trion Coatings LLC. Middleburg Capital Development is a family office firm that manages the Sutherland family trusts and has been an early advocate of Notre Dame’s IDEA Center.