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Corrosion Detection Built for Space

Friday, August 14, 2015

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What do soil pollution and the European Space Agency (ESA) have to do with pipe corrosion? A joint venture between it and a Dutch company established an Earth-based method for pipeline owners to detect corrosion, the ESA reported Wednesday (Aug. 12).

From Earth to Space

Seeking to create a bacteria-based air filter to improve air quality on space stations, the ESA joined forces with Dutch company Bioclear, experts in biological solutions for soil, energy and environment.

Sytze Keuning, CEO of Bioclear, explained their involvement: “In a spacecraft you have a lot of contaminants that build up. It’s not so different from your office. There, you have furniture and it has chemical substances such as the glue used in the desk that evaporates in low concentrations.”

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

The European Space Agency's quest for a bio-based air filter for space stations led to an Earth-based corrosion detection solution as well.

Part of Bioclear’s usual focus is clean and healthy soil and water systems and the use of biological solutions to remove pollutants from soil. Calling on this part of their expertise, they used bacteria to create an air filter system that would degrade contaminants into carbon dioxide and water.

Recognizing that the process of breeding good bacteria, might also breed bad bacteria, they developed a way for astronauts to tell if bad bacteria were growing.

DNA analysis enabled them to create an artificial strand of a pathogen’s DNA and impregnate it with fluorescent compounds colored blue, they said as an example. If the artificial DNA came in contact with the pathogen, it would bind with the pathogen’s DNA, and the dangerous pathogens would show up blue under a microscope.

But what does this have to do with corrosion?

Back on Earth

ESA saw the potential for this technology to be used on terra firma as well. They sought to support Bioclear’s research through their Technology Transfer Program, which supports industry by using technologies developed for space programs to improve terrestrial applications.

As a result, those DNA screening techniques and microbial analysis technology developed by Bioclear are able to be used to identify a bacterial threat, and its strength, in water and soil.

© iStock.com / ThomBal

While corrosion is a chemical process, 40 to 50 percent of corrosion can be stimulated by bacteria, according to Bioclear.

The company now considers “biocorrosion” their biggest market, and one of their biggest targets within that market is pipelines. The risk to metals can be analyzied simply by taking a sample of the surrounding soil or water.

Szyte acknowledged that while corrosion of metal is a chemical process, “Forty to fifty percent of this corrosion is stimulated by certain bacteria” and certain types of bacteria can greatly accelerate corrosion.

Where kilomtres/miles of pipeline in use, he explained, the use of soil analysis could help you identify “where the weak spots are.”

“A pipeline is in the ground, running through different soil types,” Szyte explained. “If you know a certain soil promotes corrosion, you can adjust your inspection schedule.”

   

Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Corrosion; Corrosion protection; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Environmental Controls; Latin America; North America; Pipeline; Research and development

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