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Assessment of Corrosion Education Summary Corrosion has been the subject of scientific study for about 150 years. Historically, corrosion has meant the destructive oxidation of metals. But today engineering applications include a multitude of nonmetallic materials, and the term “corrosion” now signifies the degradation and loss of function by exposure to the operational environment of all materials. Corrosion can have a great impact on the safety and reliability of an extremely wide range of articles of commerce, and its economic impact in the United States is very large. It plays a critical role in determining the life-cycle performance, safety, and cost of engineered products and systems of value to the national defense and the general health and welfare of the public. Technology areas where corrosion plays an important role include energy production (for example, power plant operation and oil and gas exploration, production, and distribution), transportation (for example, automotive and aerospace applications), biomedical engineering (for example, implants), water distribution and sewerage, electronics (for example, chip wiring and magnetic storage), and nanotechnology. While the successful application of corrosion understanding already saves billions of dollars annually in these endeavors, studies have concluded that a wider application of our understanding of the corrosion phenomenon could reduce the cost of corrosion to the nation even more.1 1 One such study, the Department of Defense’s (DOD’s) Efforts to Reduce Corrosion on the Military Equipment and Infrastructure of the Department of Defense (2008), estimates that the average return on investment from over 80 corrosion mitigation projects carried out over 3 years is around 50:1. Available at http://www.corrdefense.org/CorrDefense%20Magazine/Summer%202007/PDF/2007_DOD_Corrosion_Report.pdf. Accessed August 2008.
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Assessment of Corrosion Education The 2001 report Corrosion Costs and Preventive Strategies in the United States noted that technological changes and the wider use of available corrosion management techniques have improved corrosion mitigation.2 However, better corrosion management can also be achieved using preventive strategies in nontechnical and technical areas. These preventive strategies include (1) increase awareness of the large costs of corrosion and the potential for savings, (2) change the misconception that nothing can be done about corrosion, (3) change policies, regulations, standards, and management practices to decrease corrosion costs through sound corrosion management, (4) improve education and training of staff in recognition and control of corrosion, (5) improve design practices for better corrosion management, (6) advance life prediction and performance assessment methods, and (7) advance corrosion technology through research, development, and implementation. Although there are likely to be many reasons why these strategies are not routinely followed, in the committee’s view strengthening corrosion education would be a major step toward improved corrosion control and management. An engineering workforce that is ill-equipped to deal with corrosion problems begs the question, What are engineers being taught about corrosion? Is it sufficient? This study was commissioned to do two things: Assess the level and effectiveness of existing engineering curricula in corrosion science and technology, including corrosion prevention and control, and Recommend actions that could enhance the corrosion-based skill and knowledge base of graduating and practicing engineers. From the perspective of assessing corrosion education, the workforce of graduating and practicing engineers is divided as follows: Technologists who perform repeated critical tasks; Undergraduate engineering students in materials science and engineering (MSE), who upon graduation should be knowledgeable in materials selection; Undergraduate students in other engineering disciplines; and MSE graduate students, who upon graduation should be very knowledgeable in materials selection. Advances in corrosion control are integral to the development of technologies that can solve the engineering grand challenges related to the sustainability 2 For more information, see www.corrosioncost.com/home.html. Accessed February 2008.
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Assessment of Corrosion Education and vulnerability of current, legacy, and future engineered products, systems, and infrastructure. Some examples are as follows: Energy infrastructure. Corrosion is likely to be a key issue in solar cell lifetime and wind turbine performance. Strategies for scrubbing emissions and capturing carbon will likely be limited by corrosion, as will be the high efficiencies of central power plants, which are achieved by means of a high-temperature working fluid. Transportation fuels infrastructure. A new set of corrosion problems is likely to limit the operation of the infrastructure for the production and delivery of new fuel/power systems that rely on batteries, fuel cells, hydrogen, ethanol-based biofuels, and so on. Engineered devices and systems. Composite structures, ceramics, and reactive metals (such as magnesium) require better corrosion protection because they are less tolerant of corrosion. For instance, lightweight magnesium, a key technology being developed by the auto industry, is considerably more reactive than steel or aluminum. Graphite composites require greater environmental resistance to maintain structural integrity. Health care. The drive to minimize size, maximize capability, and extend medical device lifetimes places demands on the materials of construction and on their tolerance for degradation before function is affected. As more medical devices are implanted to protect and assist an ever-aging population, unexpected uses and failures continually occur, and improved understanding of the durability of such implanted devices will depend on their designers having extensive training in corrosion science. Electronics and computers. As modern electronic circuitry goes to ever smaller dimensions, new problems arise from environmental attack on circuits as their surface to volume ratio increases. Sensors are of growing importance in daily life—from monitoring biological activity in the body, to controlling our cars and providing information on environmental conditions such as wind, precipitation, and chemical contamination. Surface and interface corrosion processes in these sensors will therefore pose an increasing threat to device and system reliability. National defense. Defense readiness is highly sensitive to corrosion, and future defense systems will continue to present fresh challenges as new materials are inserted into defense platforms. At any given time, 20 to 50 percent of the U.S. Air Force tanker fleet is in repair; many U.S. Army vehicles are in repair or are being used at less than full capacities owing to general wear and corrosion. In general, materials being used in the modern world are being pushed to the limits of their operability. The demands will require a workforce conscious of
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Assessment of Corrosion Education environmental attack on all types of systems and having the ability to anticipate and design for sustainability under extreme conditions. The engineering workforce must have a solid understanding of the physical and chemical bases of corrosion, as well as an understanding of the engineering issues surrounding corrosion and corrosion abatement. The study revealed, nonetheless, that corrosion engineering is not a required course in the curriculum of most bachelor’s degree programs in MSE and related engineering fields. In many programs, corrosion is not only not a required subject, it is not even available. As a result, most bachelor’s-level graduates of materials- and design-related programs have an inadequate background in corrosion engineering principles and practices. Employers recognize the need for employees with competence in corrosion engineering, but they are not finding it in today’s graduates. Indeed, their principal concern is that those making design decisions “don’t know what they don’t know” about corrosion. In the committee’s judgment, this lack of knowledge and awareness ultimately jeopardizes the health, wealth, and security of our country. This report also reminds us of the obvious: that the availability of corrosion classes for graduating and practicing engineers depends on the availability of people to teach the subject. The availability of teachers is in turn dependent on the health of the corrosion research community and therefore on the research support available to that community. If corrosion engineering education is to flourish, the committee believes the number of MSE faculty specializing in corrosion will need to increase. This means that federal agencies and industry will need to support university-based corrosion specialists, who will become a foundational corps of teachers. The committee has found that industry compensates for the inadequate corrosion engineering education of practicing engineers through on-the-job training and short courses for its employees and the hiring of outside consultants as required. These continuing skills-based and knowledge-based educational approaches are widely accepted as useful, and they play an important role depending on the job function and desired outcomes. However, the continuing education of the workforce is not a substitute for including corrosion in the curricula for graduating engineers and technologists. In government agencies such as DOD, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Energy, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and state transportation agencies, the committee finds that maintaining a corps of in-house corrosion experts is not now and has probably never been a high priority. Likewise, the committee’s sense is that current management philosophy in government appears to expect project managers to find a corrosion expert on demand when projects require that expertise, largely by outsourcing to a contractor or consultant. Industry and government reliance on outside contractors to conduct the continuing education of the workforce or to act as corrosion consultants is ultimately
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Assessment of Corrosion Education unsustainable as these outsiders learned their trade in the industries and agencies that are now buying in their services and that are no longer employing (and hence training) their successors. This situation is aggravated by the retirement of the few people with corrosion expertise and the near absence of corrosion engineering experience in new hires emerging from graduate and undergraduate engineering programs. Based on the committee’s expert judgment and its assessment of the data gathered during the course of this study and the opinions and information received from government, industry, and the MSE and engineering communities, the committee concludes that the current level and effectiveness of engineering curricula in corrosion, offered through university-based and on-the-job training, will not provide a sufficient framework to allow the country to reduce substantially the national cost of corrosion or to increase the safety and reliability of the national infrastructure. In addition, the committee concludes that the recent proactive stance on corrosion control that DOD has taken will be undermined by the shortage of engineers and technologists with a sufficient comprehension of corrosion. To enhance the corrosion-based skill and knowledge base of graduating and practicing engineers, the committee concludes that corrosion education needs to be revitalized through (1) short-term tactical actions by educators, government, industry, and the broader technical community and (2) long-term strategic actions by the federal government and the corrosion research community. The committee is not recommending a wholesale overhaul of engineering education. Rather, it has identified a series of actions that can be adopted by institutions—educational, governmental, and community—that are interested in increasing corrosion education and awareness. While acknowledging that there are many pressures on the curricula in the country’s engineering schools, the committee hopes many universities’ departments of engineering and MSE will acknowledge the importance to the country of improving the provision of corrosion knowledge to our future engineers. THREE SHORTER-TERM TACTICAL RECOMMENDATIONS Recommendation: Industry and government agencies should strengthen the provision of corrosion engineering education. They should Develop a foundational corps of corrosion faculty by supporting research and development in the field of corrosion science and engineering. Provide incentives to the universities, such as endowed chairs in corrosion control, to promote the hiring of corrosion experts at the universities. Enable the setting and periodic updating of learning outcomes for corrosion courses by publishing and publicizing skills sets for corrosion technologists and engineers.
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Assessment of Corrosion Education Fund the development of educational modules for corrosion courses. Support faculty development, offering corrosion-related internships and sabbatical opportunities, and supporting cooperative programs between universities and government laboratories to facilitate the graduate student research experience. Increase support for the participation of their engineers in short courses when specific skills shortages are identified and are required to be filled in the short term. Recommendation: Engineering departments in universities should incorporate elective learning outcomes and course work on corrosion into all engineering curricula. Improving the overall awareness of corrosion control will require that more engineers have a basic exposure to corrosion, enough to “know what they don’t know.” Recommendation: Materials science and engineering (MSE) departments in the universities should introduce set required learning outcomes on corrosion into their curricula. All MSE undergraduate students should be required to take a course in corrosion control so as to improve the corrosion knowledge of graduating materials engineers. TWO LONGER-TERM STRATEGIC RECOMMENDATIONS In addition to the recommendations above, the details of which are expanded on in the report, during the course of the study the committee became convinced that there were two compelling challenges outstanding: one for the federal government, in particular the DOD, and one for the corrosion community itself. The committee is convinced that government can improve the education of the corrosion workforce by developing a strategic plan with a well-defined vision and mission. This is the first long-term recommendation the committee is making, and it is directed to DOD, specifically its Corrosion Policy and Oversight Office. This plan will require input from a broad set of societal stakeholders and the analytical capabilities of government, industry, and academia. Strategic Recommendation to the Government Recommendation: The Department of Defense’s Director of Corrosion Policy and Oversight, whose congressionally mandated role is to interact directly with the corrosion prevention industry, trade associations, other government corrosion-prevention agencies, academic research and educational institutions,
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Assessment of Corrosion Education and scientific organizations engaged in corrosion prevention, should (1) set up a corrosion education and research council composed of government agencies, industry, and academia to develop a continuing strategic plan for fostering corrosion education and (2) should identify resources for executing the plan. The plan should have the following vision and mission: Vision. A knowledge of the environmental degradation of all materials is integrated into the education of engineers. Mission. To provide guidance and resources that will enable educational establishments to achieve the vision. The challenge to the corrosion community is motivated by the committee’s observation that the community appears isolated from the rest of the scientific and engineering community. Repeatedly the committee heard that, on the one hand, the general research and engineering community considers corrosion science and engineering to be a mature field, with little compelling science to be done, and that on the other hand, the corrosion community considers there are many compelling science questions to be answered, with corrosion mitigation and prevention likely to be considerably advanced if these questions can be answered.3 The responsibility for changing this mismatch in perception falls to the corrosion community itself. Because the education of a corrosion-savvy workforce is dependent, broadly, on the health of the corrosion community, the committee offers its second long-term recommendation to this community. Strategic Recommendation to the Corrosion Community Recommendation: To build an understanding of the continuing need for corrosion engineering education, the corrosion research community should engage the larger science and engineering community and communicate the challenges and accomplishments of the field. To achieve this goal the corrosion research 3 A National Research Council study getting underway in the autumn of 2008 is charged with identifying the most compelling scientific questions in fundamental corrosion science. The kinds of questions it will be considering include these: Is enough known about corrosion to enable the lifetime of a material to be increased by a factor of 5 or 10? What is the mechanism of pit initiation? What are the next important processes in corrosion to understand better and model? What is the true chemistry inside localized corrosion sites, and how does it affect the corrosion processes? Corrosion at the nanoscale: What is really of interest, and can corrosion at the nanoscale be forecast from first principles and multiscale knowledge? What fundamental theory or model toolkit capability do we need to develop? For more information, see http://www.nationalacademies.org/nmab. Accessed August 2008.
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Assessment of Corrosion Education community should identify and publish the research opportunities and priorities in corrosion research and link them to engineering grand challenges faced by the nation. To show how the field of corrosion could meet these challenges, the corrosion research community should reach out to its peers by speaking at conferences outside the field, publishing in a broad range of journals, and writing review articles for broad dissemination.