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Corrosion engineering

Corrosion engineering is the specialist discipline of applying scientific knowledge, natural laws and physical resources in order to design and implement materials, structures, devices, systems and procedures to manage the natural phenomenon known as corrosion. Generally related to Metallurgy or Materials Science, Corrosion Engineering also relates to non-metallics including ceramics, cement, and conductive materials such as carbon / graphite. Corrosion Engineers often manage other not-strictly-corrosion processes including (but not restricted to) cracking, brittle fracture, crazing, fretting, erosion, and more typically categorized as asset management. In the 1990s, Imperial College London even offered a Master of Science degree entitled "The Corrosion of Engineering Materials".[1] UMIST - University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology and now part of the University of Manchester also offered a similar course.

In the year 1995, it was reported that the costs nationwide in the U.S of corrosion were nearly $300 billion per year.[2] This confirmed earlier reports of damage to the world economy caused by corrosion.[3]

Corrosion engineering groups have formed around the world in order to help educate and prevent, slow and manage the effects of corrosion. Examples of such groups are the National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE) and the European Federation of Corrosion (EFC) and The Institute of Corrosion in the UK. See also Corrosion societies. The corrosion engineers main task is to economically and safely manage the effects of corrosion on materials. Corrosion Engineering master's degree courses are available worldwide and are concerned with the control and understanding of corrosion.

Zaki Ahmad in his book "Principles of corrosion engineering and corrosion control" states that "Corrosion engineering is the application of the principles evolved from corrosion science to minimize or prevent corrosion".[4] Shreir et al suggest likewise in their large 2 volume work titled Corrosion.[5] Corrosion engineering involves designing of corrosion prevention schemes and implementation of specific codes and practices. Corrosion prevention measures, including Cathodic protection, designing to prevent corrosion and coating of structures fall within the regime of corrosion engineering. However, corrosion science and engineering go hand-in-hand and they cannot be separated: it is a permanent marriage to produce new and better methods of protection from time to time. In the "Handbook of corrosion engineering", the author Pierre R. Roberge states "Corrosion is the destructive attack of a material by reaction with its environment. The serious consequences of the corrosion process have become a problem of worldwide significance".[6]

Some of the most notable contributors to the Corrosion Engineering discipline include:

Michael Faraday (1791–1867) •Marcel Pourbaix (1904–1998) •Dr. Herbert H. Uhlig (1907–1993) •Ulick Richardson Evans (1889–1980) •Mars G. Fontana (1910–1988) •Melvin RomanoffPierre R. Roberge


Types of corrosion situationsEdit

Corrosion engineers and consultants tend to specialize in Internal or External corrosion scenarios. In both, they may provide corrosion control recommendations, failure analysis investigations, sell corrosion control products, or provide installation or design of corrosion control and monitoring systems.[7][8][9][10][11] Every material has its weakness. Aluminum, galvanized/zinc coatings, brass, and copper do not survive well in very alkaline or very acidic pH environments. Copper and brasses do not survive well in high nitrate or ammonia environments. Carbon steels and iron do not survive well in low soil resistivity and high chloride environments. High chloride environments can even overcome and attack steel encased in normally protective concrete. Concrete does not survive well in high sulfate and acidic environments. And nothing survives well in high sulfide and low redox potential environments with corrosive bacteria.

External corrosionEdit

Underground soil side corrosionEdit

Underground corrosion control engineers will collect soil samples to test soil chemistry for corrosive factors such as pH, minimum soil resistivity, chlorides, sulfates, ammonia, nitrates, sulfide, and redox potential. The soil samples are collected from the depth from which the infrastructure will be installed because soil properties can change from strata to strata. The minimum test of in-situ soil resistivity is measured using the Wenner 4 pin method if often performed to judge a site's corrosivity, but if the test is performed during a dry period, the soil's actual corrosivity may not be properly reported since underground condensation can occur on buried metals leaving the soil touching the metal surfaces in a more moist status. This is why measuring a soil's minimum or saturated resistivity is so important. Soil resistivity testing alone will also not identify corrosive elements.[12] Corrosion engineers can investigate locations experiencing active corrosion using above ground survey methods and design corrosion control systems such as cathodic protection to stop or reduce the rate of corrosion.

Geotechnical engineers typically do not practice corrosion engineering and will refer their clients to a corrosion engineer if the soil resistivity is measured to be below 3,000 ohm-cm or less depending which soil corrosivity categorization table they are reading. Unfortunately, an old dairy farm can have soil resistivities above 3,000 ohm-cm and still contain corrosive ammonia and nitrate levels which will lead to corrosion of copper piping or grounding rods. A general saying about corrosion is, "If the soil is great for farming, it is great for corrosion!"

Underwater external corrosionEdit

Underwater corrosion engineers apply the same principals used in underground corrosion control but will use specially trained and certified scuba divers for condition assessment, and corrosion control system installation and commissioning. The main difference being in the type of reference cells used to collect voltage readings.

Atmospheric corrosionEdit

Prevention of atmospheric corrosion is typically handled by use of materials selection and coatings specifications. The use of zinc coatings also known as galvanization on steel structures is a form of cathodic protection and also a form of coating. Small scratches are expected to occur in the galvanized coating over time. The zinc being more active in the galvanic series corrodes in preference to the underlying steel and the corrosion products fil the scratch preventing further corrosion. As long as the scratches are fine, condensation moisture should not corrode the underlying steel as long as both the zinc and steel are in contact. As long as there is moisture, the zinc will corrode and eventually disappear.

Side view Crow Hall Railway Bridge north of Preston Lancs corroding - general
Corroding Steel Electrification Gantry

Humid and splash zone corrosionEdit

'Pile jackets' encasing old concrete bridge pilings to combat the corrosion that occurs when cracks in the pilings allow saltwater to contact internal steel reinforcement rods
Structural member Blackpool Promenade at Bispham badly corroded

A significant amount of corrosion of fences is due to landscaper tools scratching fence coatings and irrigation sprinklers spraying these damaged fences. Recycled water typically has a higher salt content than potable drinking water, meaning that it is more corrosive than regular tap water. The same risk from damage and water spray exists for above ground piping and backflow preventers. Fiberglass covers, cages, and concrete footings have worked well to keep tools at an arm’s length. Even the location where your roof drain splashes down can matter. Drainage from a home’s roof valley can fall directly down onto a gas meter causing its piping to corrode at an accelerated rate reaching 50% wall thickness within 4 years. It is the same effect as a splash zone in the ocean or in a pool which has a lot of oxygen and agitation that can remove material as it corrodes.

Tanks or structural tubing such as bench seat supports or amusement park rides can accumulate water and moisture if the structure does not allow for drainage. This humid environment can then lead to internal corrosion of the structure affecting the structural integrity. The same can happen in tropical environments leading to external corrosion.

Galvanic corrosionEdit

See main article Galvanic corrosion

Galvanic corrosion (also called bimetallic corrosion) is an electrochemical process in which one metal corrodes preferentially when it is in electrical contact with another dissimilar metal, in the presence of an electrolyte[13]. A similar galvanic reaction is exploited in primary cells to generate a useful electrical voltage to power portable devices - a classic example being a cell with zinc and copper electrodes.

Pitting corrosionEdit

See main article Pitting corrosion

Pitting corrosion, or pitting, is extremely localized corrosion that leads to the creation of small holes in the material - nearly always a metal. The failures resulting from this form of corrosion can be catastrophic. With general corrosion it is easier to predict the amount of material that will be lost over time and this can be designed into the engineered structure. Pitting, like crevice corrosion can cause a catastrophic failure with very little loss of material.

Crevice corrosionEdit

See main article Crevice corrosion

Stress corrosion crackingEdit

See main article Stress corrosion cracking

Stress corrosion cracking (SCC) is the growth of a crack in a Corrosion|corrosive environment. It can lead to unexpected sudden and hence catastrophic failure of normally ductile metals under tensile stress. This is usually exacerbated at elevated temperature. SCC is highly chemically specific in that certain alloys are likely to undergo SCC only when exposed to a small number of chemical environments. It is common for SCC to go undetected prior to failure. SCC usually quite progresses rapidly after initial crack initiation, and is seen more often in alloys as opposed to pure metals. The corrosion engineer thus needs to be aware of this phenomenon [14].

See main article Stress corrosion cracking

Microbial corrosionEdit

See main article Microbial corrosion

High Temperature corrosionEdit

See main article High-temperature corrosion

Internal corrosionEdit

The same principals of external corrosion control can be applied to internal corrosion but due to accessibility, the approaches can be different. Thus special instruments for internal corrosion control and inspection are used that are not used in external corrosion control. Video scoping of pipes and high tech smart pigs are used for internal inspections. The smart pigs can be inserted into a pipe system at one point and "caught" far down the line. The use of corrosion inhibitors, material selection, and internal coatings are mainly used to control corrosion in piping while anodes along with coatings are used to control corrosion in tanks.

Internal corrosion challenges apply to the following:

- Water pipe corrosion - Gas pipe corrosion - Oil pipe corrosion - Water tank reservoir corrosion

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Sidky and Hocking (May 1994). "MSc Corrosion of Engineering Materials". Imperial College Lecture Notes.
  2. ^ Fontana, Mars G (2005). Corrosion engineering (3rd ed.). New Delhi: Tata McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0070607443. OCLC 225414435.
  3. ^ Trethewey, Kenneth R.; Chamberlain, John (1988). Corrosion for students of science and engineering. Harlow, Essex, England: Longman Scientific & Technical. ISBN 0582450896. OCLC 15083645.
  4. ^ Zaki., Ahmad, (2006). Principles of corrosion engineering and corrosion control. Institution of Chemical Engineers (Great Britain) (1st ed.). Boston, MA: Elsevier/BH. ISBN 9780080480336. OCLC 147962712.
  5. ^ Shreir, L. L.; Burstein, G. T.; Jarman, R. A. (1994). Corrosion (3rd ed.). Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann. ISBN 159124501X. OCLC 53032654.
  6. ^ Roberge, Pierre R. (2012). Handbook of corrosion engineering (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 9780071750370. OCLC 801050825.
  7. ^ R., Roberge, Pierre (2008). Corrosion engineering : principles and practice. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 9780071640879. OCLC 228826475.
  8. ^ Uhlig's corrosion handbook. Revie, R. Winston (Robert Winston), 1944-, Uhlig, Herbert Henry, 1907- (Third ed.). Hoboken, New Jersey. ISBN 9780470872857. OCLC 729724608.
  9. ^ 1944-, Revie, R. Winston (Robert Winston),. Corrosion and corrosion control : an introduction to corrosion science and engineering. Uhlig, Herbert Henry, 1907- (Fourth ed.). Hoboken, New Jersey. ISBN 9780470277256. OCLC 228416767.
  10. ^ Zaki., Ahmad, (2006). Principles of corrosion engineering and corrosion control. Institution of Chemical Engineers (Great Britain) (1st ed.). Boston, MA: Elsevier/BH. ISBN 9780080480336. OCLC 147962712.
  11. ^ Volkan,, Cicek,. Corrosion engineering. Salem, Massachusetts. ISBN 9781118720752. OCLC 878554832.
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Galvanic Corrosion". Retrieved 2018-12-21.
  14. ^ "Stress Corrosion Cracking (SCC)". Retrieved 2018-12-21.

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