When you think of metal, your first thought may be of an unbreakable and indestructible substance that will last forever. But that's not always the case. While metals are, indeed, some of the most durable materials on our planet, they too have their kryptonite. The name given to this destroyer of metal surfaces? Corrosion. Read on to learn more about the process of corrosion and how it can be avoided by selecting specific metals that are corrosion-resistant.
Corrosion is a broad term that encompasses the destruction of any and all metals. Most often, corrosive deterioration is caused by a chemical reaction. And this chemical reaction usually involves exposure to oxygen (oxidation) and/or water.
The type of corrosion we’re probably most familiar with is rust. Rust is a reddish-brown oxide that commonly forms on metal when iron reacts with oxygen via a catalyst, such as water or moisture in the atmosphere. It can be dangerous, causing cuts and scrapes, and can also completely eat its way through even the sturdiest of metal structures.
While rust is the name given to iron corrosion (including on steel and other alloys), other metals also undergo corrosive processes that can be equally damaging and unsightly.
How To Prevent Corrosion
While there are rust prevention processes and products, the simplest way to avoid rust and corrosion is simply to select metals that don't rust and corrode. It may sound obvious, but first, you have to understand which metals those are and how they are best used.
Copper is a naturally occurring metal with a warm and glossy brown tone. Though it doesn't form rust, it does corrode over time, forming a bright green patina on its surface. This green layer does ultimately provide a protective coating on the metal surface which prevents further corrosion of the underlying metal. When copper is mixed with other metals (a metal made from two or more pure metals is called an alloy), it resists corrosion much more robustly. Two common copper alloys are bronze and brass.
Bronze is a tin and copper alloy that contains little or no iron. For this reason, it doesn’t rust, and it resists corrosion very well. Bronze is beautiful as well as durable and is often used for decorative purposes.
Another copper alloy, brass, is a combination of copper and zinc (and sometimes small percentages of other metals as well). Like bronze, brass is extremely corrosion-resistant, even to agents including saltwater. For this reason, it’s commonly used in marine applications. It has excellent ductility (the ability to be stretched and strained without losing its strength) and is similar to gold in colour, which also makes it popular for decorative purposes.
Aluminum is a light yet strong metal and is one of the most commonly used on the planet. It’s well known for being used in aircraft construction, among other things. Like all metals, aluminum is susceptible to corrosion; however, it has a secret defence. When aluminum is exposed to the atmosphere, a thin protective layer of aluminum oxide forms on its surface. This thin layer creates a virtually impenetrable shield and protects the underlying metal from further oxidation. There are also a number of aluminum alloys, all of which are resistant to corrosion and suited for a variety of different purposes.
Stainless steel is a steel alloy that contains a metal called chromium. Despite steel's propensity to rust (it does contain iron, after all), the presence of chromium allows for the formation of a protective film called chromium oxide. Chromium oxide will re-form if damaged, which leaves the underlying steel rust-resistant and well protected from further corrosion. This is what allows stainless steel to maintain its trademark bright and shiny appearance. Stainless steel is used in many applications ranging from appliances to car and bike parts.
Looking for a metal supplier who can assist you in meeting your needs for non-corrosive metals? Look no further than New West Metals. New West Metals is a family-owned business that’s 100% Canadian. We are customer service-oriented and take great pride in the excellent products we source and provide to our clients. Visit our website or call us today for more information.