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UCSB Team Observes Pitting Corrosion in Real Time

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

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Researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara say a new tool they’ve developed allows them to observe crevice and pitting corrosion in real time, helping them to understand when and where the process starts and what factors lead to it spreading quickly.

Images: UC Santa Barbara

The UCSB team's research could have far-ranging consequences in the field of corrosion protection.

The device, developed by chemical engineering professor Jacob Israelachvili and his team, is a type of surface forces apparatus, and it allows the observation of pitting corrosion in confined spaces at the micro and nano scale, something that’s difficult or impossible without the device.

The Study

Israelachvili and a team from both UCSB and Germany’s Max Planck Institut für Eisenforschung used the SFA to study the corrosion process at the interface of a nickel film on a mica surface, upon exposure to different pH-neutral sodium chloride solutions.

“With the SFA, we can accurately determine the thickness of our metal film of interest and follow the development over time as corrosion proceeds,” researcher Kai Kristiansen said.

Jacob Israelachvili

The research team is headed up by Jacob Israelachvili, of UCSB's chemical engineering program.

In their recent research, published in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, the team found that corrosion would initiate in very localized areas, most likely areas with tiny cracks or weak spots.

Other Observations

The scientists say their observations suggest “initial corrosion results in formation of an aggressive interfacial electrolyte that rapidly accelerates pitting, similar to crack initiation and propagation within the confined area.”

“One of the most important aspects of our finding is the significance of the electric potential difference between the film of interest and the apposing surface in initiating corrosion,” Kristiansen said. The nickel film, with higher potential energy than the relatively inert mica surface, experienced corrosion in the experiment while the mica did not.

The research into the origins and tendencies of the corrosion process could have wide-ranging implications, from helping to protect metal structures and industrial machinery to maintaining medical devices and even helping to develop new formulas for cement, the researchers say.


Tagged categories: Colleges and Universities; Corrosion; Research

Comment from gianni farina, (9/20/2017, 1:22 AM)

where can I get more inmfo onm nthe sub

Comment from Mario Colica, (9/20/2017, 2:55 AM)

We must assume that the pitting is regarding stainless steeel , even it's not clear fwhen reading the article . In order to appreciate the author's work , more info are needed

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