BOX 2-2

Education in the Degradation of Nonmetals

Most contemporary MSE undergraduates will have had some exposure to the properties of organic materials. However, few MSE curricula in this country provide comprehensive instruction in polymeric and composite materials. Historically, the most comprehensive education in polymers and composites is offered by a relatively small number of specialized departments, many outside of engineering colleges. Some of them offer both undergraduate and graduate programs, while others focus solely on graduate education. Even in such comprehensive programs, polymer degradation and failure are rarely primary academic topics nowadays. In the past, the mitigation of polymer degradation and failure by compounding resins with appropriate additives was of great interest in both teaching and research. Paralleling the situation in metallic corrosion, however, funding for research on degradation and related topics has shrunk significantly, leading to decreased faculty interest and diminished treatment of this topic in polymer- and composite-focused curricula. The overall result is that few current engineering graduates will have had any significant exposure to the subject of polymer or composite degradation. While graduate engineers will therefore be very capable of monitoring the change in properties of a polymer in service, they will have no familiarity with or understanding of the interactions in a particular environment/polymer system, and they are unlikely to be able to select a polymer/additive compound or a composite. Ideally, engineers engaged in such a selection, which often involves the substitution of a polymer or composite for a metal, should be familiar with the advantages and shortcomings of both classes of material. It is regrettable in terms of societal costs and public safety that the present educational system rarely, if ever, imparts such comprehensive expertise.

corrosion education from the supply side. First, which types of courses expose students to corrosion, and how comprehensive is that treatment? Second, who takes those courses? At the undergraduate level, corrosion is typically taught in three broad categories of courses.

The Dedicated Corrosion Course

The first and most comprehensive of these is the dedicated corrosion course, typically involving about 40-45 hours of classroom instruction that may also be taken by starting graduate students. A typical modern class covers the fundamental thermodynamics and kinetics of corrosion, the eight forms of metallic corrosion (uniform, galvanic, crevice, pitting, intergranular, selective leaching, erosion corrosion, and stress corrosion), the environmental degradation of nonmetals, and corrosion protection strategies such as coatings, inhibitors, and cathodic protection. The coverage is primarily theoretical, grounded in the theory of corrosion and the principles of electrochemistry. A hypothetical syllabus for such a course is shown in Box 2-3. Another style of dedicated corrosion class is more deeply rooted



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