The history of corrosion technology (up to about the time of the First World War)

Smith, C. A. (1976). The history of corrosion technology (up to about the time of the First World War). PhD thesis The Open University.



In this work, the author examines the problems that metallic corrosion has caused through the ages, and the attempts that have been made to combat it, particularly from the technological point of view.

The period under special consideration is the nineteenth century. During that time, two aspects of the industrial revolution highlighted the problems that corrosion can cause.

The quantity of iron and steel produced, increased enormously, so an ever increasing volume of metal became exposed to air and water. At the same time, the environmental pollution from the very furnaces and other manufacturing establishments that were producing the iron and steel, served to increase the aggressive nature of the corrosive attack.

These two factors combined to make industrialists fully aware of the magnitude of the problem and this resulted in detailed investigations being carried out to attempt to quantify the amount of corrosion occurring in various environments and with different grades of iron and steel. During the nineteenth century, engineers tended to concentrate on ferrous metals and scientists on non-ferrous metals.

Centuries ago, it was appreciated that the important factor in the prevention of corrosion, was for the metal to be separated from any aggressive environment. Many attempts have been made since then to find a covering that would become firmly attached to the metal surface and prevent ingress of the corroding media.

Until about 1836, these attempts had been made empirically, but at that time, the principles of galvanic protection, which had been established earlier in the century, began to be put into practice.

Tin had been applied as a covering for centuries, prior to these discoveries, primarily because of its decorative appeal. Scientists were now able to appreciate that the protection given by tin was just mechanical, whereas zinc, bestowed both mechanical and electrochemical protection. This realisation increased the popularity of zinc as a protective material.

Electroplating became firmly established during the century, especially when 'magneto-electric machines' superceded the battery and provided a reliable current supply. Little scientific thought was given to painting until nearly the end of the century, when red lead became firmly established as the most suitable base for use.

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