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What You Need to Know About Corrosion Failure Analysis

Corrosion is a common problem that affects various structures and materials, from pipelines and bridges to automobiles and appliances. It can lead to significant damage, financial losses, and even safety hazards. To prevent these issues, it is crucial to understand the causes of corrosion and how to conduct a proper corrosion failure analysis. In this article, we will delve into the topic of corrosion failure analysis, providing you with valuable information to tackle this problem effectively.

Understanding Corrosion

Before we delve into corrosion failure analysis, let’s have a brief overview of corrosion itself. Corrosion is a natural process that occurs when a metal reacts with its environment, resulting in its gradual deterioration. It is primarily driven by electrochemical reactions between the metal and substances like oxygen, water, and acids.

Causes of Corrosion

Numerous factors contribute to corrosion, and identifying these causes is crucial in conducting an effective failure analysis. Some common causes include:

1. Environmental Factors: Exposure to humidity, moisture, temperature variations, and pollutants significantly accelerate the corrosion process.

2. Chemical Reactions: Contact with certain chemicals, such as acids, salts, and alkaline substances, can promote corrosion.

3. Mechanical Stress: Stress, such as vibration or friction, can damage the metal’s protective layers, leaving it vulnerable to corrosion.

4. Galvanic Corrosion: When two dissimilar metals are in contact, an electrochemical reaction occurs, causing accelerated corrosion on the less noble metal.

The Importance of Corrosion Failure Analysis

Corrosion failure analysis plays a critical role in identifying the root causes of corrosion-related failures. By conducting a thorough analysis, you can determine the specific factors that contributed to the failure and take appropriate preventive measures to avoid future occurrences.

Analyzing Corrosion Failures

To conduct a successful corrosion failure analysis, you need to follow a systematic approach. Here are the essential steps involved:

1. Visual Inspection: The first step is to conduct a visual inspection of the failed component. Look for signs of cracking, pitting, discoloration, or any other visual cues that may indicate corrosion-related issues.

2. Chemical Analysis: Collect samples from the failed component and perform chemical analysis to determine the presence of corrosive substances. This analysis helps pinpoint the specific chemical factors that contributed to the failure.

3. Microscopic Examination: Use microscopy techniques, such as scanning electron microscopy (SEM) or optical microscopy, to analyze the microstructure of the failed component. This examination reveals important details about the corrosion pattern, such as the extent, type, and location of corrosion.

4. Corrosion Rate Calculation: By measuring the thickness loss of the corroded component, you can calculate the corrosion rate. This calculation provides insights into the severity of the corrosion process and helps estimate the remaining service life of similar components.

Preventing Corrosion Failures

Once you have identified the causes of the corrosion failure, it is crucial to take appropriate preventive measures. Here are some practical steps you can take:

1. Material Selection: Choose materials that are resistant to corrosion in the specific environmental conditions the component will be exposed to.

2. Protective Coatings: Apply corrosion-resistant coatings or paints to provide a barrier between the metal and its environment.

3. Cathodic Protection: Implement cathodic protection systems, such as sacrificial anodes or impressed current, to prevent galvanic corrosion.

4. Proper Maintenance: Regularly inspect and maintain the components to identify and address any potential corrosion issues in their early stages.


Corrosion failure analysis is a crucial process in understanding and preventing corrosion-related failures. By conducting a systematic analysis, you can identify the root causes, take preventive measures, and ultimately extend the service life of your structures and materials. Remember to consider the environmental factors, conduct chemical and microscopic examinations, and calculate the corrosion rate to get a comprehensive understanding of the failure. With the knowledge gained from corrosion failure analysis, you can make informed decisions to minimize the impact of corrosion and ensure the longevity of your assets.

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