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Types of Corrosion

What are the different types of corrosion?

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Types of Corrosion

General attack corrosion deteriorates a steel lock.

Image © Terence Bell

Corrosion comes in many different forms and can be classified by the cause of the chemical deterioration of a metal. Listed below are 10 common types of corrosion:

1. General Attack Corrosion:
Also known as uniform attack corrosion, general attack corrosion is the most common type of corrosion and is caused by a chemical or electrochemical reaction that results in the deterioration of the entire exposed surface of a metal. Ultimately, the metal deteriorates to the point of failure.

General attack corrosion accounts for the greatest amount of metal destruction by corrosion, but is considered as a safe form of corrosion, due to the fact that it is predictable, manageable and often preventable.

2. Localized Corrosion:
Unlike general attack corrosion, localized corrosion specifically targets one area of the metal structure. Localized corrosion is classified as one of three types:

  • Pitting: Pitting results when a small hole, or cavity, forms in the metal, usually as a result of de-passivation of a small area. This area becomes anodic, while part of the remaining metal becomes cathodic, producing a localized galvanic reaction. The deterioration of this small area penetrates the metal and can lead to failure. This form of corrosion is often difficult to detect due to the fact that it is usually relatively small and may be covered and hidden by corrosion-produced compounds
  • Crevice corrosion: Similar to pitting, crevice corrosion occurs at a specific location. This type of corrosion is often associated with a stagnant micro-environment, like those found under gaskets and washers and clamps. Acidic conditions, or a depletion of oxygen in a crevice can lead to crevice corrosion.
  • Filiform corrosion: Occurring under painted or plated surfaces when water breaches the coating, filiform corrosion begins at small defects in the coating and spreads to cause structural weakness.

3. Galvanic Corrosion:
Galvanic corrosion, or dissimiliar metal corrosion, occurs when two different metals are located together in a corrosive electrolyte. A galvanic couple forms between the two metals, where one metal becomes the anode and the other the cathode. The anode, or sacrificial metal, corrodes and deteriorates faster than it would alone, while the cathode deteriorates more slowly than it would otherwise.

Three conditions must exist for galvanic corrosion to occur:

  • Electrochemically dissimilar metals must be present
  • The metals must be in electrical contact, and
  • The metals must be exposed to an electrolyte

4. Environmental Cracking:
Environmental cracking is a corrosion process that can result from a combination of environmental conditions affecting the metal. Chemical, temperature and stress-related conditions can result in the following types of environmental corrosion:

  • Stress Corrosion Cracking (SCC)
  • Corrosion fatigue
  • Hydrogen-induced cracking
  • Liquid metal embrittlement

5. Flow-Assisted Corrosion (FAC):
Flow-assisted corrosion, or flow-accelerated corrosion, results when a protective layer of oxide on a metal surface is dissolved or removed by wind or water, exposing the underlying metal to further corrode and deteriorate.

  • Erosion-assisted corrosion
  • Impingement
  • Cavitation

7. Intergranular corrosion
Intergranular corrosion is a chemical or electrochemical attack on the grain boundaries of a metal. This often occurs due to impurities in the metal, which tend to be present in higher contents near grain boundaries. These boundaries can be more vulnerable to corrosion than the bulk of the metal.

8. De-Alloying:
De-alloying, or selective leaching, is the selective corrosion of a specific element in an alloy. The most common type of de-alloying is de-zincification of unstabilized brass. The result of corrosion in such cases is a deteriorated and porous copper.

9. Fretting corrosion:
Fretting corrosion occurs as a result of repeated wearing, weight and/or vibration on an uneven, rough surface. Corrosion, resulting in pits and grooves, occurs on the surface. Fretting corrosion is often found in rotation and impact machinery, bolted assemblies and bearings, as well as to surfaces exposed to vibration during transportation.

10. High-Temperature Corrosion:
Fuels used in gas turbines, diesel engines and other machinery, which contain vanadium or sulfates can, during combustion, form compounds with a low melting point. These compounds are very corrosive towards metal alloys normally resistant to high temperatures and corrosion, including stainless steel.

High temperature corrosion can also be caused by high temperature oxidization, sulfidation and carbonization.

Sources:
The Corrosion Technology Laboratory (NASA)
http://corrosion.ksc.nasa.gov/index.htm
NACE International
http://www.nace.org/
The World Corrosion Organization
http://www.corrosion.org/

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