Cadmium is a toxic metal and human carcinogen. Cadmium coatings, regardless of the coating deposition process, are highly toxic and lead to significant in-service application and disposal costs. Compliance with environmental, safety, and health regulations and the potential legal liabilities for the continued in-service use, removal, and disposal of cadmium coatings are making the continued use of cadmium coatings increasingly expensive. The objective of this joint DoD / NASA project is to demonstrate and validate cadmium alternatives for use in structural, fastener, and other weapons-critical applications.

Technology Description

Despite considerable efforts to minimize its use, cadmium continues to be widely used in many applications within the DoD and NASA. Cadmium is used extensively to protect components, parts, and fasteners. The scope and breadth of cadmium usage and its range of applications is so pervasive that it is extremely difficult for any one acquisition project or Service to implement an alternative coating system. Cadmium is also used in many weapons-critical applications, which require functional performance unique to defense and space systems. One of these performance requirements is longevity. Required life spans for defense systems are measured in decades rather than years. For weapons-critical applications, commercial solutions can not be transitioned to replace cadmium without extensive demonstration and validation of functional performance. To complicate the problem, functional performance requirements for military coating systems are often not well defined.


A cooperative DoD, NASA, and Industry effort to reduce dependence on cadmium has been established with funding from the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program, the DoD Joint Group on Pollution Prevention, the military Services, NASA, and Industry. This effort will leverage ongoing cadmium replacement projects by establishing a highly coordinated working group to facilitate community interaction and integrate technical results. The working group will demonstrate and validate a variety of cadmium alternatives with potential to impact a range of applications. The best cadmium alternative for any given application will depend upon technical and cost performance. Defense, space, and industrial facilities will have a range of choices to allow them to implement the alternative technology best suited for their purpose.

Implementation Issues

This project provides the necessary leverage and coordination to develop and execute joint test protocols, demonstrate and validate a wide range of cadmium alternatives, and provide a business base to support manufacturers that currently deposit cadmium on bulk quantities of fasteners.