New insights into molecular-level processes could help prevent corrosion and improve catalytic conversion.
Engineers have long known water vapor can accelerate corrosion of metals and alloys, but the exact mechanisms remain elusive and therefore difficult to prevent. Now an international team of scientists has peered into the atomic-level workings of water vapor corrosion. Their work reveals how the involvement of protons speeds the corrosion process.
Understanding how water vapor such as mist or steam corrodes metals and alloys can help engineers keep industrial systems working at peak performance longer. Armed with that knowledge, engineers can also improve catalytic conversion processes and enhance ionic conduction in materials.
Scientists from EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, an Office of Science user facility, collaborated with colleagues at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and State University of New York at Binghamton to study the effect of water vapor and elevated temperatures on a nickel-chromium alloy. Using EMSL’s environmental transmission electron microscope, they were able to directly observe oxide growth on a nickel-chromium alloy during corrosion at the atomic level. What they discovered was a complex dance of protons, cations, and anions that led to increased corrosion and a more porous structure of the oxide. They then modeled the process through computer simulations to confirm their findings. Their work provides insights into how water vapor might change other materials, particularly at elevated temperatures.
BER PM Contact
Paul Bayer, SC-23.1, Paul.Bayer@science.doe.gov
Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory
This work was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences, Materials Sciences and Engineering Division. Research was conducted at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL), a DOE Office of Science user facility.
Langli, L., S. Mao, P. Yan, L. Zou, D.K. Schreiber, D.R. Baer, Z. Zhu, G. Zhou, Y. Wang, S.M. Bruemmer, Z. Xu, and C. Wang. “Atomic origins of water-vapour-promoted alloy oxidation.” Nature Materials 17, 514-518 (2018). [DOI: 10.1038/s41563-018-0078-5]
“Peering into the Mist: How Water Vapor Changes Metal at the Atomic Level,” EMSL science highlight
SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER
BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER
Aug 24, 2019
New Approach for Studying How Microbes Influence Their Environment
A diverse group of scientists suggests a common framework and targeting of known microbial processes [more...]
Aug 08, 2019
Nutrient-Hungry Peatland Microbes Reduce Carbon Loss Under Warmer Conditions
Enzyme production in peatlands reduces carbon lost to respiration under future high temperatures. [more...]
Aug 05, 2019
Amazon Forest Response to CO2 Fertilization Dependent on Plant Phosphorus Acquisition
AmazonFACE Model Intercomparison. The Science Plant growth is dependent on the availabi [more...]
Jul 29, 2019
A Slippery Slope: Soil Carbon Destabilization
Carbon gain or loss depends on the balance between competing biological, chemical, and physical reac [more...]
Jul 15, 2019
Field Evaluation of Gas Analyzers for Measuring Ecosystem Fluxes
How gas analyzer type and correction method impact measured fluxes. The Science A side- [more...]
List all highlights (possible long download time)