Actualidad y noticias

Juan José Damborenea González: "Corrosion costs 2.5 billion dollars globally every year"

23 marzo 2017

Juan José Damborenea joined at the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine of London in 1988 as a Research Fellow and that same year he began working as scientific collaborator at the CENIM (Spanish acronym for National Centre of Metallurgical Research).

Juan José Damborenea joined at the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine of London in 1988 as a Research Fellow and that same year he began working as scientific collaborator at the CENIM (Spanish acronym for National Centre of Metallurgical Research). This center. Between 1996 and 2008 he was head of the Corrosion and Protection Department at the CENIM. Since 2009 he is executive officer of the Federation of European Materials Societies

What is corrosion and what is its economic impact?

Corrosion is a natural phenomenon that occurs to most metal materials. These materials always tend to return to their native states, in other words to their oxidized form. This makes corrosion a cross-cutting issue that affects all kinds of industries and human activities where metals are used. There are many studies that show that corrosion causes large economic losses. Perhaps one of the most important has been carried out by the National Association of Corrosion Engineers of the United States in which the global cost of corrosion has been estimated in about 2.5 billion (American trillion) dollars. Other sources indicate that in developed countries this cost can represent between 4% and 6% of GDP.

Could these costs be lowered?

Yes, they could. The industry could save between 15% and 30% of these costs only by applying small measures in the field of prevention and control already available in the market. In most industries that are not critical or very advanced these measures would be enough to solve the main problems caused by corrosion.

So, there is a move towards efficiency…

Yes, this is part one. Part two it's a move towards shifting the properties of waste. The idea is that we don't need to speak about plastic waste anymore if we find the way to produce only plastic suitable for 3-D printers, because then it could be recycled again and again.

Beyond the economic point of view, what other negative effect does this phenomenon have on society?

Another important dimension is sustainability. Corrosion contributes in an important way to depleting resources that are not abundant, like nickel, chromium, tungsten, among others. Besides that, many people do not realize that our civilization is based on the use of steel. If we distribute steel production among the inhabitants of the planet, each of us consumes approximately 200 kg of steel a year. Steel industry contributes globally between 4% and 5% of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere. Consequently, it is important to protect the durability of this material so that it does not have to be constantly produced and in this way reducing the environmental impact that this activity entails. Still in the environmental field, a mention should be made of the Erika ship which sank in 1999, causing an ecological catastrophe in the form of a black tide on the coast of Brittany. Well, when the ship was recovered it was observed that in some parts it had lost up to 50% of matter because of corrosion.

Don't engineers and architects have enough knowledge to tackle this?

The answer is no. The engineering and architecture study plans do not devote much time to corrosion, although this is a basic aspect of engineering and architectural design. Normally, there are only some classes with general aspects of the subject. In fact, the people who are dedicated to the study of corrosion receive many queries from professionals who have doubts because they have not received in-depth training on the subject.

What advances are worth highlighting in surface protection systems?

The techniques and systems of surface protection are a wide range of possibilities as great as the human capacity to develop new products. We have traditional methods, such as paints, which is the coating par excellence and is used by 80% of the industry. There are methods such as conversion and other more advanced such as physical and chemical vapour deposition. Coatings today are no longer just a physical barrier that protects the material against corrosion. The new trends are based on obtaining multifunctional coatings. These coatings not only prevent corrosion, but also give the material properties it did not possess before. For example: resistance to wear; hydrophobic, hydrophilic, or antibacterial properties, or that it slows the fire. Here again there are many possibilities and these coatings give added value to the material. This is the new dominant trend in the field of corrosion protection.

What is the importance of self-healing materials?

In the case of aircraft, a corrosion problem at 9,000 m high is critical. On the one hand, there must be adequate inspection programs, as the aeronautical industry already has, but also coatings capable of responding to the need for safety must be applied. In this sense, self-healing coatings -called also smart-coatings- are being developed.

How do they work?

When a blow or a scratch leave the material unprotected the same material is able to provide protection elements which contain corrosion inhibitors that are released without the need of any human intervention and these inhibitors cover the bare areas. They may be nanoporous particles of titanium oxide or capsules loaded with different inhibitors such as, for example, salts of lanthanide elements or benzotriazole, among other possibilities.

What does the future hold in the fight against corrosion?

There are many challenges still pending due to the instability of metals in the environment. The demands are also increasing. Motors, for example, have to work at a higher temperature and there are machines that operate at great depths. Aerospace research is geared towards materials that are capable of withstanding in very aggressive conditions. Aviation has, as one of its strategic challenges, to design aircraft that can transport more than 1,000 people and this leads us to the search for materials with some very special characteristics. Apart from that, there is a problem when surfaces with corrosion are repaired in the open air because of the exposure to environmental pollution. This requires finding new coatings that can integrate contaminating elements into the material.

What is your opinion about Eurosurfas?

First, Eurosurfas has an emotional meaning for me. It was the first congress I attended in my life. It was back in the 80s when I was working on my doctoral thesis on corrosion inhibitors and it was there that I participated in a presentation on this topic. I remember it with much affection. Then over time I have been following Eurosurfas and I think there are always very interesting presentations. It is also worthwhile for the fact that it connects the industry with the new developments that come from research. Both worlds have lived too much with their backs turned, so it is very good that they meet each other.