Corrosion & Rust

13 August 2008

Corrosion describes the breaking down of essential properties in a material due to chemical reactions with its surroundings. It is most commonly known in terms of metals which corrode when affected by moist air. This oxidates the metal and creates rust.

But corrosion does not just describe the oxidisation and disintegration of metals, but also the dissolution of ceramic materials, and the discolouration and weakening of polymers by ultraviolent light.


The weakening of Iron due to the oxidisation of its iron atoms is the best known example of electrochemical corrosion, but most metals corrode from exposure to moist air. Rust is a general term for a series of iron oxides formed by the reaction of iron with oxygen in the presence of water or air moisture.

Rusting is the common term for corrosion of iron and its alloys, such as steel. Other metals undergo equivalent corrosion, but the resulting oxides are not commonly called rust. Given sufficient time, oxygen, and water, any iron mass eventually converts entirely to rust and disintegrates. The corrosion of aluminium is extremely slow because the resulting aluminium oxide forms a coating, which protects the remaining aluminium from corroding. This process is known as passivation.

Rust in Action!

Rust in Action!

How will Rust affect me?

Whether it’s your home, car, bike or motorcycle, rust is bound to effect you at some point. The process is greatly accelerated by moist or salty air conditions, such as those found by the seaside. CC Technologies calculated that corrosion costs America $276 billion per year, speculating that this was mainly due to the misconception that corrosion is inevitable.

Rust Prevention

There are two approaches to protecting against rust. Barrier methods, and sacrificial protection. The former places a barrier between the metal and the moist air. Grease, paint, plastic or an unreactive metal such as copper or tin can be used.

The latter covers the metal being protected in a more reactive metal or material, such as zinc or magnesium, which will corrode before iron or steel.

So if you live by the sea, make sure you protect those precious metals from the corrosion that faces them due to their exposure to moist, salty air. Don’t wait for rust to remind you to act!

Alternatively let nature run its course and achieve that rustic look you’ve been looking for. Rust can also make car and bicycles look less appealing to thieves, as Dominic Wilcox has utilised with a crafty anti theft device which uses fake rust stickers in exactly this way.


2 Responses to “Corrosion & Rust”

  1. n01d Says:

    what an enthralling article, i’ll never look at rust in the same way again!

  2. MizwAh Says:

    haha this is RAD!

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