Corrosion has been studied by scientists and engineers for about 150 years and remains relevant in almost every aspect of materials usage. As was demonstrated in Chapter 1, corrosion can have a great impact on the safety and reliability of an extremely wide range of articles of commerce, and its financial impact in the United States is very large. Examples of 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. It is reasonable to consider that the increasingly harsh physical environments to which critical systems such as energy production are subjected (one example is nuclear reactors that operate at high temperatures) and the proliferation of new technologies in support of societal goals (for example, the growing use of hydrogen as an auto fuel) may increase the cost of corrosion to society unless mitigating steps are taken. It has been estimated that remedial actions based on a better and more widespread understanding of the corrosion phenomenon could reduce significantly the financial burden of corrosion to the nation. Although insufficient corrosion education in the engineering profession is not the only reason for the absence of such actions, the committee has concluded that it is a major one.

Successful application of corrosion knowledge and understanding could save billions of dollars annually. Teaching engineers the fundamentals of corrosion and corrosion prevention is critical to both mitigating the damage done by corrosion as well as to the competitiveness of the nation’s industries and the effectiveness of its defense. The automotive industry is one example of the value of corrosion awareness in design. The use of galvanized steel body panels and improved painting methods have improved the durability of car exteriors in relation to corrosion. However, the need to save weight has led the automotive industry to consider extensive use of magnesium. This is a paradigm shift that will require extensive advances in corrosion knowledge on the part of manufacturers, their suppliers, and maintenance organizations. An engineering workforce that does not know enough about corrosion will have a difficult time dealing with such paradigm shifts in particular and corrosion problems in general.

CONCLUSION 1. Corrosion, or the degradation of a material’s properties as a result of its interaction with the operating environment, plays a critical role in determining the life-cycle performance, safety, and cost of engineered products and systems.

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