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Researchers reveal deficiencies in “corrosion-resistant” metallic materials

Photo of a man with scientific devices.
Alfred Larsson assembles an electrochemical cell at the instrument "The Swedish Materials Science Beamline P21.2" at the PETRA III particle accelerator in Hamburg. Photo: Jinshan Pan

Corrosion-resistant metallic materials are required in applications such as rocket engines, nuclear power stations and chemical industry. An alloy of nickel, chromium, and molybdenum is often used. However, a new study shows that this alloy rusts in a previously unknown way.

Buildings, modes of transport, artworks, and music instruments – we encounter metallic materials almost everywhere in society. The factor that limits the lifetime of these materials is corrosion, which means a material is eaten away and dissolved due to electrochemical reactions. Corrosion damage is associated with costs amounting each year to around four percent of the gross world product (GWP) and causes considerable carbon dioxide emissions.

Problems for the industry

In a new study published in the research journal Advanced Materials, a research team led from Lund University studied an alloy of nickel, chromium, and molybdenum that is known for its corrosion resistance. Using accelerated electrochemical tests at the synchrotron light facilities MAX IV in Lund and PETRA III in Hamburg, the researchers concluded that the alloy’s corrosion resistance was significantly poorer than expected under these test accelerated test conditions.

“This leads to problems for the industry, which cannot rapidly test and compare different materials in a correct way. We can also prove that it’s not only corrosion reactions that take place during the accelerated electrochemical tests, but also other reactions that have been previously ignored, such as water splitting,” says Alfred Larsson, doctoral student of physics at Lund University.

Resisting corrosion

Thanks to a combination of five experimental technologies based on synchrotron light sources, the researchers could create an almost complete picture of what happens on the surface when the material corrodes during accelerated tests. Using this knowledge, industry could in the future develop new protocols for how corrosion resistance should be measured. This could in turn enable correct assessments to be made regarding which material should be used for different applications.

It costs society a lot of money and can also lead to serious accidents.

“It’s of the utmost importance that we learn more about the corrosion process. It costs society a lot of money and can also lead to serious accidents,” says Alfred Larsson.

Besides Lund University, MAX IV, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Alleima, Malmö University, Swerim AB, DESY Photon Science, Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron Hamburg, and the Centre for X-ray and Nano Science Hamburg participated in the research.

The study was published in the journal Advanced Materials.

Read the article “The Oxygen Evolution Reaction Drives Passivity Breakdown for Ni-Cr-Mo Alloys” (