nizes that research is one of the key vehicles by which graduate education is effected. Accordingly, it looks at the impact that research has on the development of individual faculty members. Research is critical to understanding corrosion and developing new mitigation strategies. Mainly, however, the committee insists that educating engineers and making them aware of corrosion is the first line of defense in ensuring that corrosion is considered during the design process and over the use lifetime.

Scope of the Study—Metals and Nonmetals

Corrosion, as defined by DOD, the sponsor of this report, is the degradation and loss of function of all materials by their exposure to the environment. Historically, corrosion has meant the destructive oxidation of metals, and this is the way corrosion is often taught. However, the use of materials and the design of new materials are now dominated by nonmetals. Polymers and engineered plastics and composites have been one of the success stories of science over the last 100 years. Between 1980 and 2006, employment in the U.S. plastics industry grew by 1.1 percent per year, and the real value of plastics shipped grew 140 percent, from $114.5 billion to $275 billion.13 Ceramics, concrete, asphalt, and natural stone remain key components of the public infrastructure, but new hybrid organic/inorganic materials, materials based on nanoscale properties, and biomimetic materials are all increasingly in use. Materials development is becoming an atom-by-atom, molecule-by-molecule, or layer-by-layer construction process. This approach to creating new materials with superior properties is sometimes based on scientific principles, sometimes on combinatorial materials design procedures, and sometimes on imitating nature’s own self-organizing processes. Admittedly, some of the combinations of strength, flexibility, and low cost possible with certain metals have not yet been duplicated in new material regimes, nor have the low cost and desirable properties of concrete based on Portland cement been duplicated or significantly improved on. However, the past tells us that new materials free of the weaknesses of current materials will be developed, and many of them will be nonmetallic.

While this report is mainly concerned with corrosion engineering education as it pertains to metals, the committee recognizes that nonmetallic materials such as plastics and composites are increasingly being used in applications that up to a few decades ago were the exclusive domain of metals. Indeed the total production of resins—organic polymers, plastics—is now comparable to that of metals, and of this total, a significant fraction is being used in structural applications.14 Contrary to some perceptions, however, plastic materials may be susceptible to interactions that degrade their properties (see Box 1-2).


See Accessed April 2008.


Alan S. Wineman and Kumbakonam Ramamani Rajagopal, Mechanical Response of Polymers: An Introduction, Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press (2000).

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