What is corrosion?

Barbara A. Shaw, Robert G. Kelly

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Corrosion is degradation of materials' properties due to interactions with their environments, and corrosion of most metals (and many materials for that matter) is inevitable. While primarily associated with metallic materials, all material types are susceptible to degradation. Degradation of polymeric insulating coatings on wiring has been a concern in aging aircraft. Even ceramics can undergo degradation by selective dissolution. Like death and taxes, corrosion is something we hope to avoid; but ultimately it is something we must learn to deal with. The fundamental cause or driving force for all corrosion is the lowering of a system's Gibbs energy. As Fig. 1 illustrates, the production of almost all metals (and engineering components made of metals) involves adding energy to the system. As a result of this uphill thermodynamic struggle, the metal has a strong driving force to return to its native, low energy oxide state. This return to the native oxide state is what we call corrosion and even though it is inevitable, substantial barriers (corrosion control methods) can be used to slow its progress toward the equilibrium state. Thus it is the rate of the approach to equilibrium that is often of interest. This rate is controlled not only by the nature of the metal surface, but also by the nature of the environment as well as the evolution of both.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-26
Number of pages3
JournalElectrochemical Society Interface
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electrochemistry


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