The road to many of tomorrow’s protective coatings now begins in Ohio, where the University of Akron has launched the nation’s first undergraduate degree in Corrosion Engineering and Reliability and an associated research center.
Backed by $10 million in federal and private funding, the new curriculum and research center seek to meet what private industry, public utilities, government bodies and the military have all said is a critical need for qualified professionals to tackle the nation’s rapidly growing corrosion crisis, which now costs the U.S. economy some $276 billion per year, officials say.
‘Driven by Need’
“The university’s establishment of a Corrosion Engineering program is driven by need, both public and private,” said Dr. George K. Haritos, dean of the UA College of Engineering. “The demand for corrosion engineers and related qualified experts is immense, given the fact that corrosion plays a critical role in the deterioration of our nation’s infrastructure.”
The program, housed within the Department of Chemical Engineering, is grounded in courses for the Chemical Engineering degree but adds a core of Corrosion Engineering courses to provide a well-rounded education and knowledge of corrosion types, causes, mitigation and prevention.
“The truly unique aspect the curriculum, and one that was frequently requested by both industry and DoD, is the integration of corrosion management courses,” said university spokeswoman Denise Henry. “Students will understand project management, making trade-offs in materials selection and the role of return on investment in project decision making.”
The project was the brainchild of Michael K. Baach, vice president of the Philpott Rubber Company in Brunswick, OH, and a veteran member of the National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE).
Baach approached the university in 2006 “with the concept of developing a new degree to fill an educational gap that had long been recognized by industry—the need for a professional engineer with specialized education and training in the science and engineering principles of corrosion,” said Henry.
The timing was perfect, as the federal government had also recently initiated steps to address the corrosion issue. These included the creation of the Department of Defense Office of Corrosion Policy and Oversight, which began to establish policies and educational initiatives for addressing corrosion.
Before long, the new DoD office had established a strategic partnership with the university’s corrosion initiative. By the time the doors opened this fall, the program—including a new National Center for Education and Research on Corrosion and Materials Performance—had received $8 million in federal funding and more than $2 million in private sponsorship.
Development of new-generation protective coatings is a key component of the program, both in the curriculum and through research being conducted at the Center.
Coatings are integrated into the courses as tools for corrosion prevention and mitigation when students are taught about the various forms of corrosion. The coatings training includes science, theory and application, backed by lab experiences.
Two research projects now underway, thanks to DoD funding: Investigation of Organic Coating and Non-Standard Metals or Alloys and Enzyme Strippable Primer.
One ongoing area of research, led by Dr. Mark Soucek, is the development of new environmentally benign coatings and “smart” (stimuli-response) coatings.
The university program has developed strong partnerships with the coatings industry, through suppliers, NACE and SSPC: The Society for Protective Coatings. Among the fruits of those partnerships is a customized on-line Operator Qualification (OQ) course, developed by NACE and UA for the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.
Carboline has funded the Carboline Chair for Corrosion and Reliability Engineering as well as the Carboline/NACE Foundation Scholarship, which provides $15,000 a year for five years.
Ten students have declared corrosion engineering majors, and about 70 freshmen have expressed an interest in the program, Harney said.
In August, the research center learned that it would receive $2.5 million in the FY 2011 Defense Appropriations bill.
"We are taking the rust out of the Rust Belt once and for all, and in the process training students for the 1,000 to 1,500 skilled high-paying jobs that are open every year for corrosion experts," said Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio), who announced the funding.
Sutton said the research center “will pay for itself dozens of times over, and with our manufacturing and research strength, we will lead the way in developing and producing these cost-cutting materials."