Alen Korjenic earned the Marcel Pourbaix Prize (2nd) for his top poster in corrosion science presented at the Association for Materials Protection and Performance 2022 annual conference.
Korjenic is a Ph.D. student of materials science and engineering at the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science and a member of the corrosion and electrochemistry research group led by John R. Scully, Charles Henderson Professor of materials science and engineering and co-director of the Center for Electrochemical Science and Engineering.
Korjenic studies metal-rich primers that provide corrosion protection to aircraft skins and airframe components. He focuses on a 7xxx aluminum alloy commonly used to construct wing spars, the bones of the aircraft wing. Steel rivets hold the wing spars in place, join spar sections together and fasten other braces and parts to the wings.
The U.S. Department of Defense and its Office of Naval Research are seeking new coating systems to replace chromated primers that pose a cancer risk to assembly workers as well as operations and maintenance personnel. Korjenic’s research will assist in the search for materials that are safer, more sustainable and equally or more effective in mitigating corrosion of the wing panels and rivets and preventing environmental assisted cracking.
Korjenic seeks to develop a set of simpler engineering test methods that the U.S. Department of Defense can include in its published standards and procedures for primers, taking into account a range of material compositions for the alloys, the methods of manufacturing and coating deposition and the environmental conditions in which the aircraft must perform.
Korjenic’s experiments generate critical electrochemical information about coating system performance. This includes the potential protection windows of the bare alloy, achieved through corrosion and hydrogen evolution testing; the sacrificial protection capabilities of candidate primers, achieved through diagnostic laboratory testing; and protection mechanisms with respect to scratched and intact coatings, achieved through accelerated life testing. He also conducts tests on galvanic corrosion, which can occur when stainless steel and aluminum are combined and come into contact with humidity or rainwater, to analyze pertinent protection mechanisms active for various coating systems.