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Research Opportunities in Corrosion Science and Engineering
Materials design for corrosion resistance currently relies on expert knowledge and incremental improvements to well-tested compositions and structures. The use of increasingly sophisticated computational approaches to predict stability and properties and to probe reaction dynamics in complex environments can make materials design more effective and narrow the span of experimental investigation. Furthermore, progress in nanoscience, particularly the ability to synthesize and control precise nanostructures, creates new opportunities for corrosion scientists and engineers to explore the design of materials (including coatings and smart materials) and to establish the critical link between atomic- and molecular-level processes and macroscopic behaviors. Despite considerable progress in the integration of materials by design into engineering development of products, corrosion-related considerations are typically missing from such constructs. Similarly, condition monitoring and prediction of remaining service life (prognosis) do not at present incorporate corrosion factors. Great opportunities exist to use the framework of these materials design and engineering tools to stimulate corrosion research and development to achieve quantitative life prediction, to incorporate state-of-the-art sensing approaches into experimentation and materials architectures, and to introduce environmental degradation factors into these capabilities.
The Committee on Research Opportunities in Corrosion Science and Engineering defined corrosion as the environmentally induced degradation of materials, where “environment” is broadly construed but always includes some element of chemical reaction. There are many corrosion processes that operate over different temperature regimes, environmental conditions, and mechanical stress levels. The public perception of corrosion is generally limited to the degradation of metallic materials in aqueous environments, perhaps with some recognition that gases and condensed phases at high temperatures may also shorten the useful life of engineering materials. However, every material class is affected by corrosion in some way. Although the problem of corrosion is ubiquitous, research to reduce its magnitude has often received only modest attention.
Dramatic changes in societal factors now demand that prevention and mitigation of corrosion damage receive greater emphasis. Our quality of life is increasingly dependent on the application of diverse materials, including metals, polymers, ceramics, and semiconductor devices. This continuing trend is made more significant by the advanced requirements and designs that push past current experience and expose materials to ever-harsher chemical environments. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, increased awareness of the human impact on Earth’s environment is raising the public’s expectation not only for improved safety and high reliability, but also for green manufacturing and low environmental impact, including sustainability in consumer products, industrial and military equipment, and the infrastructure. When corrosion processes and their products act in direct opposition to these very desirable attributes, their effects must be mitigated. How-