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Research Opportunities in Corrosion Science and Engineering A Statement of Task BACKGROUND As documented in the report Corrosion Costs and Preventive Strategies in the United States1 the direct costs of corrosion to the U.S. economy represent 3.2 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, and the total costs to society can be twice that or greater. Beyond that are the costs of human health, national economic sustainability, and national defense readiness, which can be affected by deteriorating infrastructure, equipment and machinery. Opportunities for savings through improved materials selection and corrosion control are possible in every economic sector. While improved, cost-effective corrosion management could significantly extend the service life of existing systems, and reduce maintenance costs and replacement requirements, the value of these preventive strategies has often not been recognized and the strategies remain unapplied. Two major barriers to realizing significant savings are a broad lack of awareness of corrosion costs and the potential savings, and a widely held misconception that nothing can be done about corrosion. An essential element to tackling the second of these barriers is a better basic understanding of materials corrosion, broadly defined as the deterioration of a material in its operating environment. In 2002 the U.S. Congress mandated the establishment (10 USC 2228) of a Department of Defense (DOD) Office of Corrosion Policy and Oversight in the 1 For further information see http://www.corrosioncost.com/home.html.
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Research Opportunities in Corrosion Science and Engineering Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics.2 In addition, the Office of the Secretary of Defense developed a corrosion strategy and, in 2005, began funding technology transition and implementation projects that had been set up by all branches of the services. It is becoming increasingly obvious to DOD with each year’s projects, that significant new technology is needed to meet the DOD goal of predicting and managing corrosion, in contrast to the current approach of simply finding corrosion and fixing it. While many corrosion inhibition processes have been discovered and implemented, there is often little understanding of why they work. This lack of understanding prevents the advancement of these processes and research on alternatives. Accelerated corrosion tests in aggressive environments are used to assess corrosion resistance, but in many cases they do not correlate to real-world exposures because of a lack of fundamental understanding of the role of important parameters. Predictive capabilities cannot be developed where corrosion processes or their rates are not understood. The corrosion processes of concern occur in the air, on land, and at sea; in organic and inorganic materials; and under a host of conditions with impacts that are measurable but not adequately understood. A basic understanding of materials and their degradation is necessary to all industries and is especially critical to the nation’s defense, transportation, nuclear, and medical industries. Some of the outstanding issues for fundamental research include the following: What is the mechanism of pit initiation? What are the next important processes in corrosion to better understand and model? What is the true chemistry inside localized corrosion sites, and how does it affect corrosion processes? Corrosion at the nanoscale: What is really of interest? What is the nature of the bond between an organic molecule and an oxide or oxi-hydroxide-covered metal surface? What are the new techniques available for corrosion research, and what capabilities can they bring? These and similar questions are the foundation of a potentially compelling fundamental research program. It is timely therefore for a study to identify the compelling opportunities in research to improve the basic understanding of materials degradation and related sciences. Such a study could provide prioritized recommendations for fundamental research and development necessary to gain 2 For a copy of the relevant legislation (10 USC 2228) see http://www.corrdefense.org/Key%20Documents/10%20U.S.C.%202228.pdf.
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Research Opportunities in Corrosion Science and Engineering the critical understanding of materials degradation and mitigating technologies essential to the national interest. STATEMENT OF TASK The National Research Council will convene a committee to: Identify opportunities and advance scientific and engineering understanding of the mechanisms of corrosion processes, environmental materials degradation, and their mitigation. Identify and prioritize a set of research grand challenges to fill identified scientific and engineering gaps, as well as emerging issues. Make recommendations on a national strategy in fundamental corrosion research with the goal of gaining critical understanding of (1) environmental materials degradation and (2) mitigating technologies. The strategy should also include recommendations on how to maximize the dissemination of the outcomes of corrosion research to maximize their incorporation into corrosion mitigation.
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