Thursday, January 1, 2009


Corrosion is not a favorite subject of engineers. Many a proud designer or project engineer has developed a new component or process with outstanding performance only to have it fail prematurely because of corrosion. Furthermore, despite active research by corrosion engineers, a visit to the local scrap yard shows that large percentages of cars and domestic appliances still fail because of corrosion; this loss pales by comparison when industrial corrosion failures are included. As a result, the annual cost of corrosion and corrosion protection in the United States is on the order of $300 billion, far more than the annual budgets of some small countries.

One of the principal reasons for failure due to reaction with the service environment is the relatively complex nature of the reactions involved. Yet, in spite of all the complex corrosion jargon, whether a metal corrodes depends on the simple electrochemical cell set up by the environment. This might give the erroneous impression that it is possible to calculate such things as the corrosion rate of a car fender in the spring mush of salted city streets. Dr. M. Pourbaix has done some excellent work in the application of thermodynamics to corrosion, but this cannot yet be applied directly to the average complex situation.

Yet, corrosion engineering and science is no longer an empirical art; dissecting a large corrosion problem into its basic mechanisms allows the use of quite sophisticated electrochemical techniques to accomplish satisfactory results. On that positive side, there is real satisfaction and economic gain in designing a component that can resist punishing service conditions under which other parts fail. In some cases, we cannot
completely prevent corrosion, but we can try to avoid obsolescence of the component due to corrosion.

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