Corrosion Evaluation and Mitigation Technologies

For almost a quarter of a century, Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has provided industry and government with comprehensive and integrated solutions to difficult corrosion problems. Corrosion science specialists, supported by the Institute's multidisciplinary staff, address a wide range of corrosion research and development needs. These efforts include evaluating material performance in corrosive environments, providing input to risk and safety assessments of various chemical and radioactive processes, and aiding in process development.

To understand and resolve complicated corrosion problems, SwRI offers field, laboratory, and analysis expertise in technology areas including:

  • Materials science

  • Earth sciences

  • Structural mechanics

  • Risk assessment

  • Fluid mechanics

  • Chemistry and chemical engineering

  • Instrumentation

  • Nondestructive examination
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Using laser Raman spectroscopy, SwRI scientists study the fundamental mechanisms of corrosion to perform quantitative assessments of corrosion damage.


Experienced engineers and scientists, complemented by state-of-the-art instrumentation and extensive test facilities, are teamed to provide a responsive resource for any corrosion-related problem. SwRI offers a wide variety of corrosion services, including:

  • Materials selection and life prediction

  • Corrosion product analyses

  • Corrosion mitigation through advanced coatings and inhibitors

  • Nondestructive evaluation and risk assessment

  • Customized corrosion testing

  • Failure analysis

Materials Selection & Life Prediction

Using the Institute's experimental and numerical modeling capabilities in corrosion, materials science, and fracture mechanics, engineers perform materials selection and service life prediction for the oil and gas, chemical process, nuclear waste storage and disposal, aerospace, biomedical, and automotive industries. SwRI's areas of expertise include:

  • Life prediction of high-level waste containers

  • Development of accelerated corrosion tests for materials selection

  • Development of novel coatings and paints

  • Evaluation and qualification of biomedical devices

  • Development of metallic, ceramic, and composite biomaterials

  • Testing of customized materials and components

  • Reactive transport modeling of crevice corrosion under disbonded coatings

  • Failure analysis and prevention
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SwRI engineers constructed a unique corrosion testing system to study the performance of bolted flanges under conditions that simulate borated water leakage in a power plant.


Corrosion Product Analyses

The analyses of corrosion products and their environments provide a better understanding of corrosion mechanisms, permitting the use of cost-effective solutions to corrosion problems. SwRI offers extensive capabilities in the analyses of gases, solutions, and solid surfaces. In situ analyses using a variety of techniques such as Raman spectroscopy and microscopy are performed to study:

  • Effects of alternate wet-dry conditions on corrosion

  • Mechanisms of localized corrosion

  • Action of corrosion inhibitors

  • Formation of protective sulfide and carbonate films in pipelines

  • Detection of viable bacterial colonies on surfaces

  • Mechanisms of high-temperature corrosion of metals and refractories
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SwRI scientists use laser Raman spectroscopy to examine the role of metal-halide salt films in causing localized corrosion. These studies aid in determining appropriate parameters for life prediction.


SwRI's surface analytical techniques include:

  • Raman spectroscopy and microscopy

  • Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy

  • Scanning electron microscope with energy-dispersive spectroscopy

  • Scanning Auger spectroscopy

  • Laser fluorescence

  • X-ray diffraction

  • Atomic force microscopy
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Using an epifluorescence attachment to an optical microscope, Institute scientists examine the viability of microbial colonies and the growth of biofilms on corroding surfaces.


Corrosion Mitigation

Institute scientists and engineers use a variety of techniques to minimize corrosion damage. After corrosion factors are identified through modeling and testing, engineers improve the component's performance using sophisticated techniques that include specially designed coatings containing microencapsulated corrosion inhibitors, surface modification, and alloy selection. SwRI's approaches to corrosion mitigation include:

  • Development and testing of advanced polymeric, metallic, and ceramic coatings

  • Encapsulation of inhibitors and biocides in coatings

  • Use of cathodic and anodic protection techniques

  • Use of advanced surface modification technologies such as ion beam assisted deposition

  • Use of alloys tailored to the environment
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Using SwRI's high-temperature, high-pressure autoclave facilities, staff members conduct corrosion tests that predict the corrosivity of fluids and condensate during oil or gas production and transportation.


Nondestructive Evaluation & Risk Assessment

Nondestructive evaluation (NDE) technology is used to detect and characterize corrosion not accessible with other examination methods. The Institute is an international leader in developing and applying NDE technology for government and industry clients. SwRI's NDE expertise includes:

  • Ultrasonic methodology

  • Electromagnetic detection

  • Electronic detector arrays

  • Magnetic flux leakage

  • Magnetostrictive sensors

  • Real-time digital radiography
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NDE technology can be used to characterize corroded surfaces. The correlation between the corrosion profile generated by a laser profilometer (middle image) and the ultrasound data from the back surface of the specimen (lower image) is immediately evident.


Using Institute-developed probabilistic and financial risk assessment tools, NDE engineers assess the performance of power plant components, gas pipelines, and high-level nuclear waste repositories in the United States and abroad. SwRI's risk assessment tools utilize information developed from:

  • Laboratory and field tests

  • Nondestructive examination of in-service components

  • Fundamental failure models

  • Expert opinion

Laboratory Facilities

SwRI offers a broad array of laboratory capabilities for material modification and characterization, corrosion testing, and remote monitoring. In addition to standardized tests, the Institute provides customized corrosion tests that include flow loop tests for internal pipeline corrosion, steam impingement system tests, high-temperature hydrogen tests, and high-pressure, high-temperature tests of full-scale coupling stocks.

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The SwRI ion beam facility provides ion implantation and ion beam-assisted deposition processes that improve corrosion and wear properties.


Experienced staff perform field testing and monitoring in client facilities. Specific laboratory hardware and software include:

  • Single- and multi-channel potentiostats

  • Frequency response analyzers

  • Quartz crystalline microbalance

  • Single- and multiple-specimen slow strain rate test systems

  • Rotating electrode and flow-through cells

  • Optical and electron microscopes

  • Raman spectrometers and imaging systems

  • Ultraviolet and visible spectrophotometer

  • Atomic absorption spectrometer

  • Microbiological preparation and analysis facilities

  • Ultrasonic, magnetostrictive, and laser acoustic emission sensor systems
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Using the SwRI-developed pipe flow loop system, engineers conduct high-temperature, high-pressure corrosion studies of interest to the nuclear, oil and gas, and chemical industries.



NDE laboratory mockups aid in the development and testing of technology such as guided-wave inspection of U-bend tubes in heat exchangers.


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This brochure was published in April 1999 and has been updated for the web on March 15, 2001. For more information about corrosion evaluation and mitigation technologies, contact Elizabeth Trillo, Phone (210) 522-4210, Mechanical Engineering Division, Southwest Research Institute, P.O. Drawer 28510, San Antonio, Texas 782298-0510.

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