NOCOLOK® Binder, Thickener, System Binder and NOCOLOK® Flux plus Binder Mixture

1. Preparation and Application

This article provides information about the application of binder systems for NOCOLOK Flux.

Solvay offers three concepts for flux binder application:

  • NOCOLOK Binder (water-soluble) / NOCOLOK Thickener (water-soluble)
  • NOCOLOK System Binder (water-based)
  • NOCOLOK Flux plus Binder Mixture (water-based)

These products can be used in water-based NOCOLOK Flux slurries to improve flux particle adhesion. This is of particular interest for fluxing of pre-formed components prior to assembly in order to reduce flux fall-off and dust formation. Binders are also helpful to pre-coat certain areas with specific flux loads. All binder mixtures can be applied on external and internal surfaces.

During the brazing cycle, these binders will completely evaporate (mostly between 350 and 400°C). When used as described below, there will neither be detrimental interactions between the binder and the flux, nor between the binder and the aluminum surfaces. Trials have shown that even at four-times the standard flux load with a binder mixture there was still no surface discoloration after brazing.

2. General Comments

The surface areas to be coated with binder mixtures must be free of lubricants, oils, dirt, and dust. Means of application include spraying, dipping, and brushing.

All NOCOLOK Flux binder mixtures can be applied by spraying with a suitable spray gun (1.4 mm – 1.6 mm) at approximately 3 – 5 bar pressure.

The surface temperature should be at least 10°C.

When binders are used for flux application, the recommended flux load for good brazing results is the same as it is for the standard process (i.e. between 3 – 5 g/m2). The thickness of the binder coating is usually between 10 – 30 μm.

Drying can be done in air – requiring approximately 15 – 20 minutes at room temperature for the coating surface – and 50 – 60 minutes before the parts can be handled. Oven and forced convection drying is feasible too: at 50 – 80 °C, parts will dry within 5 – 20 minutes.

Please refer to the MSDS for detailed information regarding the safe handling of the product.

3. Preparation of Binder Mixtures

For all binder concepts and preparations, the mixtures should be prepared or opened immediately before consumption.

To prepare a mixture free of agglomerates and to achieve best coating results, the following procedures must be observed for either binder concepts:

  • NOCOLOK Binder / NOCOLOK Thickener
    • 45 parts (wt%) de-ionized water (as used for preparing standard flux slurries) is mixed thoroughly with
    • 15 parts (wt%) NOCOLOK Binder (water-soluble) and
    • 5 parts (wt%) NOCOLOK Thickener (water-soluble).
    • Once the first three components are completely homogenized,
    • 35 parts (wt%) NOCOLOK Flux powder are added successively under continuous agitation.
  • NOCOLOK System Binder
    • NOCOLOK System Binder (water-based) already contains the binder and thickener component as well as water. Consequently, only NOCOLOK Flux powder must be added.
    • 65 parts (wt%) NOCOLOK System Binder (water-based) plus
    • 35 parts (wt%) NOCOLOK Flux.
  • NOCOLOK Flux plus Binder Mixture
    • NOCOLOK Flux plus Binder Mixture (water-based) is a ready-for-use preparation containing NOCOLOK Binder, NOCOLOK Thickener and NOCOLOK Flux powder.

If necessary, the mixtures can be passed through a sieve prior to use. This will remove any potential agglomerates.

Prior to use the flux powder in the mixture must be suspended. The thickener will prevent the flux powder from settling too fast, however, when stored for some time or diluted, the mixture must be well shaken before spraying.

The binder component is activated by oxygen from air. Once sprayed and dried, the product cannot be recycled or reused.

Any remaining flux / binder mixture should be stored in an airtight and sealed container. We recommend consuming the mixtures within one week after mixing.

4. Additional Information:

  • NOCOLOK Binder, -Thickener, and –System Binder are compatible for standard NOCOLOK Flux, -LM Flux, -Cs Flux, and -Sil Flux. They are not suitable for NOCOLOK CB Flux and -Zn Flux due to chemical reactions between these fluxes and the ingredients.
  • The formulations (mixing ratios) provided in Solvay’s technical information sheets and brochures are intended as general recommendations – They provide the best basis for automated spray application and have been tested with good brazing results.
  • The recipes can be adjusted to specific application needs by changing the mixing ratios within certain ranges.
  • A well balanced ratio of binder and thickener to flux in the mixtures is important for good brazing performance:
  • Higher binder ratios result in a harder coating layer and stronger flux adhesion. But they require more care for the binder removal step.
  • Very high binder and/ or thickener ratios increase the organic content in the mixture – which may result in carbon residues (discoloration) after brazing.
  • It is possible to reduce and/ or to increase the water content of the mixtures – resulting in higher respectively lower viscosity.
  • Water dilution will cause less wetting action and reduced adhesion.
  • A surfactant (wetting agent) is part of the binder formulation – providing uniform coating, and – compensating (to some extent) for surfaces not cleaned prior to application.
  • Thickener is used for adjusting the viscosity and to keep the flux powder longer in suspension – This provides better performance in spray application. Nevertheless, formulations can be prepared and used without the addition of thickener.
  • Cleaning before binder-based flux application is recommended – but not mandatory.
  • A clean surface can be coated more easily and the flux adhesion will be better.
  • Residual oils and lubricants are reducing binder activity and require higher flux load.
  • Higher surfactant levels can compensate for some contamination – but result in more foaming.

5. Binder Flux Mixing Ratios

  • The standard composition is 35% NOCOLOK Flux, 15% NOCOLOK Binder, 5% NOCOLOK Thickener and 45% water. If a product with lower flux ratio is wanted (i.e., with only 10% flux), the composition must be modified. Right now, we are proposing 10% flux, 8% binder, 2% thickener and 80% water. There is only limited experience with this composition, and we are a little concerned. The reasons for our concerns are as follows:
    • With 35% flux, the ratio of flux to binder/ thickener on the surface of the headers is sufficient to combat the effects of the high organic content. Also, 15% binder has reasonable adhesion characteristics.
    • At 10% flux, the ratio of flux to binder/ thickener must be modified; otherwise there may not be sufficient flux to combat the high organic content. This is why we propose to reduce the binder and thickener to 8% and 2%, respectively. In other words, too much binder/ thickener and not enough flux may lead to black deposits on the headers after brazing and/ or difficulties in brazing.

6. Warehousing Considerations and Shelf Life

  • Under standard storage conditions, the shelf life is up to 12 months and probably longer. Standard storage conditions means that the product was stored at less than 30°C, as suggested in the MSDS.
  • The binder product can be stored at a temperature higher than 30°C, but the shelf life will shorten due to premature aging. Therefore, we recommend that the binder products be consumed within six months, if the storage temperature is a constant 40°C. This is not based on experimental data, but on general knowledge of water based polymer systems and adhesives. Any product stored at a temperature higher than 40°C should be consumed more quickly.
  • Under no circumstances should the binder products, in their original packaging, be exposed to a temperature of 60°C or above. We suspect that polymerization will occur, agglomerates will form and the performance will drop.

7. Thermo-Gravimetric Analysis (TGA) for Binder Flux

Please refer to the flyer “NOCOLOK Flux Application with Binders”.

8. Recommendations for Reducing Costs

  • Is not possible to only mix the binder, thickener and flux and just add the water on site. Without the water, the flux/ thickener/ binder mixture forms a rubbery-like substance that is very difficult to work with.
  • The least expensive option is to purchase the binder and thickener separately and do mixing of all ingredients on site. The most convenient option is to have a ready-mix, ready-to-use product supplied.
  • Please see above for additional recommendations for mixing.

Post-Braze Flux Residue Properties

The general appearance of NOCOLOK® brazed parts can range from relatively bright to light grey depending on the flux loading and furnace dew-point. When either is increased excessively over recommended levels, the appearance moves towards the grey colour. The flux residue usually can not be seen by the naked eye, however, it is visible under a microscope at 50x magnification. Higher magnification SEM views of the flux residue are shown in the pictures below.

SEM photomicrographs of NOCOLOK flux residue

SEM photomicrographs of NOCOLOK flux residue

The pictures on the left are typical of a tunnel furnace brazed surface, needle-like in structure possibly including the odd flat platelet. The pictures identified M-70323 are typical of a furnace atmosphere containing higher than recommended levels of O2 specifically during the cooling cycle in a batch furnace. The morphology is almost 100% flat platelets. This surface has been reported to have better corrosion resistance in service.

Other flux residue properties are as follows:

a) Residue Thickness

Typically 1–2 microns. This can vary depending on flux coating weight prior to brazing.

b) Hardness

The residue hardness is about 4 on the Mohs scale.

c) Adhesion

No measurable loss has been found in circulation tests with freon or glycol type coolants using recommended flux loading. However there are reports that some detachment may occur where higher than recommended flux loading is used, particularly where molten flux pooled in downside areas.

d) Wettability

The post-braze flux residue has a hydrophilic (wetting) surface, however that wettability decreases with time.

e) Corrosion Resistance

The presence of flux residue on the part surface mildly increases corrosion resistance under normal conditions.

f) Solubility

Solubility of flux residue is influenced by the method of measurement. A typical value are between 1.2 and 3.0 g/l with Al, F and K ion concentrations approaching the stoichiometry of the compound KAlF4 .

g) Post-Braze Odour

There is a slight odour from minute amounts of H2S immediately after brazing. It disappears within a short time. If objectionable, the odour may be eliminated by rinsing the part with water.

h) Post-Treatment

The flux residue provides a good base for coatings. However, thicker residues resulting from higher than recommended flux loading can result in the poor or non-adhesion of wet or dry powder paint coatings.

NOCOLOK® Flux residue is not easily removed from the surface of brazed parts. Mechanical abrasion, such as wire brushing or grit blasting, can be used to clean off heavier flux residues from “robust” joints. No practical chemical cleaning solution has been found. Boric acid and nitric acid solutions at higher temperature will partually remove the residues, however the times required (~ 1 hour) and the dangerous fuming with nitric acid preclude their use. Basically, the best procedure is to flux the product properly so that there is no visible after-braze residues and therefore no flux removal required.

Removal – or Cleaning – of Post-Braze Flux Residue

Based on currently available information, there is no simple cleaning method for flux residues by washing or dissolving – i.e. there is no suitable solvent or chemical solution – without attacking (corroding) the substrate material as well.

Mechanical Cleaning
Usually, removal of flux residue can only be done by mechanical means. From solid surfaces and from robust joints, as well as from Stainless Steel fixtures, the flux residues can be mechanically removed by sand or grit blasting. Wire brushing is a second alternative for flux residue removal. We recommend using Stainless Steel wire brushes for cleaning. Rotating SS-wire brushed are suitable too – provided the surface areas are accessible. Brushes made from copper and brass should only be used when the cleaned surfaces are not exposed to any subsequent welding or brazing cycle any more, because copper traces from the brush (even dust particles) in contact with aluminum can cause severe erosion problems.

Chemical Cleaning

Flux residue has a slightly higher solubility in strong alkalis and some acids. But in many cases the base materials (aluminum or Stainless Steel) will be attacked (corroded) by these chemicals too.

A solution of hot boric acid (10 to 15%, 75 – 80°C) can be used to remove some of the flux residue from brazed assemblies. Aluminum dissolution by boric acid is relatively moderate. The immersion time necessary to remove the bulk of residues varies from 10 to 30 minutes. But even then the flux residue removal will not be 100% successful.

Handling (preparation and usage) and discharging (waste disposal) of such chemical solutions can be problematic and expensive – due to their corrosive properties and the subsequently necessary waste water treatment. Considerations for health, safety and environment must be in accordance with the Safety Data Sheets.

Ultrasonic cleaning

Ultrasonic treatment may be effective in removing flux residues, provided that the parts to be cleaned fit into the ultra sonic dipping bath. A detergent (cleaning agent) can be added to the solution to improve the cleaning activity. The use of Antarox BL 225 for ultrasonic cleaning treatment is probably feasible. However, when there are any other additional chemicals mixed with the Antarox-containing cleaning solution (particularly when adding acids or alkalis) their compatibility with Antarox must be verified.

There are commercial solutions available for ultrasonic cleaning of Stainless Steel. More information on this subject is available from suppliers for industrial cleaning chemicals.


Flux residue from NOCOLOK Flux can only be removed by mechanical means, i.e. using wire brushes or grit/ sand blasting. This is a very difficult and laborious procedure – and a very dirty one (dust formation!). Local exhaust and ventilation is needed in the work area where the parts are cleaned. There is no suitable solvent to take off the flux residue without corroding the base materials.

Surface Cleaning before Brazing

Dust and dirt, condensates, lubricants and oils must be thoroughly removed. If the metal work pieces are poorly prepared, the flux will not spread evenly and the flow of filler alloy will be haphazard: it will either not spread properly or will discolour. The consequence would be an incomplete joint.

The first step is therefore: always clean the components of all oil and grease. The surfaces can be cleaned using either chemical, water-based or thermal cleaning techniques and substances.

Aqueous Cleaning

Aqueous or water based cleaning is a quite efficient and robust process, but still generates some waste water.

Aqueous cleaning starts off with a concentrated metal cleaning agent, which is subsequently diluted with water to 1% to 5% (v/v). The composition of a supplier’s cleaning solution is proprietary, but usually contains a mixture of surfactants, detergents and active ingredients such as sodium carbonate that serves to elevate the pH. Once diluted, the cleaning solution will typically have an elevated pH in the range of pH 9 to 12. There are acid based solutions, but appear to be less common.

The best water-based cleaners contain water, tensides, cleaning agent and active ingredients such as carbonates.

The cleaning solution works best at higher temperatures and is usually recommended to operate at 50°C to 80°C. Cleaning action is quicker at higher solution temperatures.

Thermal Degreasing

Thermal degreasing works by elevating the temperature of the work piece so that lubricants present on the surfaces will be evaporated. This procedure only works with special types of lubricants known as evaporative or vanishing oils. Vanishing oils are light duty lubricants used mostly for the fabrication of heat exchanger fins, although they are now finding uses in the stamping and forming of other heat exchanger components. Lubricants not designed for thermal degreasing must not be used. These could leave behind thermal decomposition products and carbonaceous residues which at higher level prevent brazing and have the potential to degrade product appearance and accelerate corrosion.

How to evaluate flux load?

How to measure?

In the case of heat exchangers, the surface area being fluxed must first be determined. For ease of calculation, the louvers on the fin can be ignored. The radius on the fin can also be ignored.

Imagine then the fin pulled out of the heat exchanger and straightened out to form one long strip. Similarly, the surface area of the slots in the header can also be ignored.

Remember that in calculating the surface area of the heat exchanger, there are 2 sides to every tube, 2 sides to every fin and 2 sides to the headers. The total surface area is then expressed in m2: All dimensions are in meters (m) to yield a surface area in square meters.


Assuming it is a cylindrical (condenser) header:

SA (m2) = (2 x 3.14 x radius of header(m)) x length of header (m) x 2 headers

Assuming it is a radiator header:

SA (m2) = length of header (m) x width of header (m) x 2 (sides/header) x 2 (headers)


SA(m2) = width of tube(m) x length of tube (m) x 2 (sides/tube) x total number of tubes


Ignore the louvers in the fins

SA (m2) = width of fin (m) x (fin height (m) x number of fin legs/tube) x 2 ( sides/fin) x total number of fins

Total Surface area in m2 = SA headers + SA tubes + SA fins

To determine the flux loading, a degreased and thoroughly dry heat exchanger is weighed. The heat exchanger is then run through the fluxer, blow-off and dry-off section of the furnace. The heat exchanger is removed just prior to entering the brazing furnace and weighed again.

The flux coating weight is then determined using the following formula:

Weight of unit fluxed and dried (g) – weight of unit un-fluxed (g) x Surface area (m2)

To make sure that the flux loading was determined on a completely dry unit, run it through the dry-off section a second time and re-weigh.

See also: Flux loading

Active surface finishing with a brazing agent

NOCOLOK® Flux is the world’s most widely used flux for aluminium brazing in a controlled atmosphere. Well-proven in the automotive industry, NOCOLOK® Flux is also increasingly used for brazing aluminium coolers for air conditioning and refrigeration systems. In the well-known standard applications NOCOLOK®Flux is not corrosive. To improve the positive properties under extreme conditions even further, Solvay Fluor, has developed a new brazing agent for the markets: NOCOLOK® Li Flux.

This new flux builds a very smooth surface residue. The new physical-chemical properties present an optimization of the compatibility in hydrous environments. NOCOLOK® Li Flux has passed several test series with good results and is meanwhile in the testing phase in many companies.