An ounce of rust prevention is worth more than a pound of cure, and a new breakthrough study by the U.S. Department of Energy shows why. For the first time, researchers were able to witness – in unprecedented detail – exactly the way rust happens. They discovered a “surprisingly dynamic iron cycle” that revealed the way iron continually moves on metal and other surfaces. They illustrated why rust prevention on pipes on metal surfaces is so critical – because once it takes hold, it can persist under a huge range of changing chemical conditions, allowing it to corrode and deteriorate over time.
Researchers noted that just like we have iron coursing through the blood in our veins, there are iron minerals that exist in our soil beneath our feet. The iron in the ground is used to forge steel and numerous other metal alloys, which we then use to craft everything from the smartphone parts that allow us to communicate across continents to the infrastructure and vehicles that help us get there in person. Unfortunately, any metal that contains iron or its compound is vulnerable to rust.
As our rust prevention experts can explain, rust is the process that occurs when these metals are exposed to moisture and oxygen. This exposure kicks off a process called iron oxidation – more commonly known as rust. It is not only extremely prevalent, it is very expensive. Rust costs the U.S. Military alone $21 billion a year. With a strong incentive to confront this, Washington gave its Pacific Northwest National Laboratory the green light to dig deeper.