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Unveiling the Material Utopia: Navigating the Nexus of Mechanical and Corrosion Resistance for Lasting Integrity

Materials.Business Newsletter ⚙️ January 16th, 2023

 

Face a utopia 

 

When discussing the integrity of materials, it is necessary to consider that most of the engineering materials are thermodynamically metastable. In such a condition, materials must be able to hold up against several kinds of forces or conditions without losing their integrity. 
 
Currently, a shortening, depreciation, or decrease in the assets' value is an increasing matter of concern. The eventual replacement of parts and equipment because “aging” or obsolescence is both understandable and inevitable as part of the object’s life cycle. Nevertheless, depreciation because of deterioration of the material must be treated as an undesirable situation. Here, we are talking about failure by overloads, fatigue, tribological loading, or corrosion, among others. 
 
Aggressive agents can be physical, biological, chemical, or a mixture, and so an ideal material would resist every situation. Unfortunately, the perfect balance only exists in utopia. For example, in steel, the choice material of engineering by excellence, there is a metal alloy with a favorable balance due to its mechanical properties (i.e., good mechanical resistance with good toughness and resilience), but it has weak corrosion resistance. Therefore, one of the permanent challenges for any engineer is to combine the best attributes of materials, thus striving for balance between properties. The development and selection of tough materials that can withstand stress, friction, wear, and corrosion; in other words looking for the best performance possible is a never-ending task for surface scientists and engineers. 
 
 

Synergy is powerful 


From the thermodynamic point of view, mechanical and corrosion resistance are quite the opposite. One of the essential mechanical properties is hardness, which is associated with abrasion or rather wear resistance. It is a mechanical property usually related to harness in a monotonous way. Hard materials are resistant to wear and tear, but generally for the same material, as better mechanical properties mean lower corrosion resistance. But the real world is not as simple, as everyday situations include mechanical and corrosive efforts simultaneously. This is the reason why the mechanisms of materials deterioration have mechanic/chemical effects simultaneously. Conditions, where friction is generating wear and tear and corrosion synergistically dissolving the material are every day. The result is “corrosive wear” or “tribo-corrosion”. Corrosion products are leached continuously, without any protection option, allowing clean surfaces to forever interact with each other and being exposed to a corrosive environment. 
 
Wear is the result of the abrasive movement of one part rubbing against another. This phenomenon often happens unexpectedly, even in the deterioration of electro-electronic equipment. For example, the mechanical vibration causes friction between the connectors' female and male parts, thus damaging the contact and increasing resistance followed by raising the temperature, which increases wear between the two parts iteratively. In addition to the electronic sector, there are other scenarios in which wear is an issue for consideration. Of course, mobile assets and moving parts of stationary equipment and machinery, such as engine parts, are exposed to severe abrasion risks and wear. The economic impact of friction and wear is enormous in economic sectors like agriculture, O&G, sewage systems, mining, ceramics, and transportation. 
 
 

How significant is the impact of friction and wear? 


Direct costs 
Wear and corrosion are surface phenomena. They are relatives, and many times it is not possible to separate them. In 1950, Herberth H. Uhlig, the author of the first study about the cost of corrosion in the USA, talked about corrosion-related wear of internal car engines and estimated that around 30% of the wear cases found might be attributable to corrosion. In 1971. M.W. Padman published a paper showing that the yearly cost of wear for the Australasian industry was AUD $14 million (about USD $ 120 million in 2019). Then in the study developed in 1978 by the Battelle Columbus Laboratories for the National Bureau of Standards/U.S. Department of Commerce, the cost of corrosion in the USA, estimated that 75 % of the maintenance costs in the O&G sector were related to corrosion (40%) and wear (35%). 
 
Other “unsustainable” costs 
Nowadays, considering the Circular Economic principles and the need for more sustainable development, another significant impact of wear concerns higher energy consumption and the consequent higher CO2 emissions. A study about this, published in 2017, considered transportation (trains, ships, airplanes, and road vehicles), manufacturing, paper machines, mining industry, power generation, and residential uses (https://doi.org/10.1007/s40544-017-0183-5). They concluded that about 20% of the total energy consumption worldwide is energy loss because it’s used to overcome friction forces (103 exajoules). Furthermore, they discovered that 3% (16 exajoules) is spent remanufacturing parts and spare equipment because of wear and wear-related failures. A fair estimation from such amounts of energy generated led to say that the corresponding greenhouse gas emissions during the year, associated with friction and wear, were 7.042 and 1.078 million tons of CO2, respectively. Additionally, estimates about the potential reduction of energy losses by implementing current and emerging tribological solutions (new materials and coatings, improved microstructures, proper surface finishes, better lubricants, different designs, sensing of the phenomena, etc.) could lead to a reduction of 18% in the short term (8 years), and by 40% in the long run (15 years). Consequently, global annual energy savings could be roughly 8.7% of the total energy consumption and 1.4 percent of the worldwide GDP. Concerning emissions, estimated reductions are 1.460 million tons of CO2 in the short term and 3.140 million tons in the long term. The monetary savings would be USD $553.000 million and USD $1.192.000 million, respectively.

Many times, materials hard to wear and tear are essential. Most of the time, materials hard to corrode are necessary. Always, materials hard to deteriorate are indispensable!!!

 

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