Corrosion protection of structural steelwork Western Cape
Cost effective corrosion protection of structural steelwork should present little difficulty for common applications and environments if the factors that affect durability are recognised at the outset.
There are many steel structures that have continued in use satisfactorily for many years even in adverse conditions. The first major iron structure, the bridge in Coalbrookdale UK, has survived over 200 years whilst the Forth rail bridge over 100 years old is legendary. Today, modern durable protective coatings are available which, when used appropriately, allow extended maintenance intervals and improved performance.
The key to success lies in recognising the corrosivity of the environment to which the structure will be exposed and in defining clear and appropriate coating specifications. Where steel is in a dry heated interior environment the risk of corrosion is insignificant and no protective coating is necessary. Conversely, a steel structure exposed to an aggressive environment needs to be protected with a high performance treatment and may need to be designed with maintenance in mind if extended life is required.
The optimum protection treatment, which combines appropriate surface preparation, suitable coating materials, required durability and minimum cost, is achievable using modern surface treatment technology.
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What makes corrosion happen
The corrosion of structural steel is an electrochemical process that requires the simultaneous presence of moisture and oxygen. In the absence of either, corrosion does not occur. Essentially, the iron in the steel is oxidised to produce rust, which occupies approximately 6 times the volume of the original material consumed in the process. The general corrosion process is illustrated here.
As well as general corrosion, there are various types of localised corrosion that can also occur; bimetallic corrosion, pitting corrosion and crevice corrosion. However, these tend not to be significant for structural steelwork.
The rate at which the corrosion process progresses depends on a number of factors relating to the ‘micro-climate’ immediately surrounding the structure, principally the time of wetness and the atmospheric pollution level. Because of variations in atmospheric environments, corrosion rate data cannot be generalised. However, environments can be broadly classified, and corresponding measured steel corrosion rates provide a useful indication of likely corrosion rates.
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Topic: Corrosion protection of structural steelwork