Research conducted at the Center for Electrochemical Science and Engineering arises from real-world corrosion issues that resist easy solutions. We pursue fundamental research to identify the crux of the problem and find methods to remedy it, with support from major government research laboratories. Collaborations with private sector partners enable us to test and evaluate proposed solutions against operational needs and requirements.

Research Thrusts

  • Localized Corrosion

    Highly focused corrosion attack on corrosion-resistant alloys can lead to crack formation as well as perforation of structures. Examples include pitting of stainless steel containers of spent nuclear fuel, dissimilar metal-induced localized corrosion in aerospace structures, and attack on structural components in molten salts relevant to advanced nuclear reactors. In many cases the localized corrosion research is coupled with the Environment-Assisted Cracking work also in CESE. The Department of Energy, the Office of Naval Research, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation support active research in each of these areas. Our approach combines state-of-the-art experimental methods with computational modeling from the atomistic to the mesoscale. Students participate in collaborative research with CESE and its external partners including national laboratories, universities and industry.

  • Coatings

    Understanding and predicting the performance of corrosion protective coatings is required for material selection and service life prediction. Current research on coatings includes work on an integrated model of corrosion protection modes and the ability of metal-rich primers to inhibit or prevent environment-assisted cracking. Collaborations within CESE couple the fundamental coating properties to the kinetics of cracking via modeling of potential and current distributions in thin electrolytes. Luna Innovations, the U.S. Department of Defense Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program and the Office of Corrosion Policy, also within the Department of Defense, support this research.

  • Corrosion Resistant Alloy Design

    Advances in the composition and processing of metallic alloys are often hindered by a lagging understanding of their corrosion performance. Additive Manufacturing (3D printing) of metallic materials is becoming more and more attractive for the design freedom it allows. However, current research in CESE has shown that the corrosion resistance of some AM alloys can be inferior to that of their wrought counterparts. The Office of Naval Research supports fundamental studies to  understand the microstructure-controlled mechanisms of corrosion and cracking. High Entropy Alloys (also known as Compositionally Complex or Multiple Principle Element alloys) offer greatly improved mechanical properties, but the effects of these composition on the passive oxide remain obscure. Fundamental research on the controlling mechanisms is underway with support from the Department of Energy and the Office of Naval Research.

  • Environment-Assisted Cracking

    Environment-assisted cracking has been and continues to be a critical failure mode for engineering structures. While complex, this damage mode reflects reality and requires cross-disciplinary expertise to understand mechanics, electrochemistry and hydrogen behavior and their interactions. This experimentally-based work focuses on traditional high-performance alloy systems (Al-, Ti-, Ni-, and Fe based alloys), additively manufactured components, and high entropy alloys in environments ranging from -100°C to 1000°C in electrochemically controlled aqueous conditions and high purity gaseous environments.  High precision experimental data is coupled with multi-scale characterization techniques (from FIB/TEM to white light interferometry) to understand the salient roles of environment, mechanics and microstructure.  CESE offers an unmatched team with capabilities in mechanics, localized corrosion and modeling, and hydrogen effects. The three faculty collaborate on several projects funded by the Department of Defense to understand both the controlling mechanisms for cracking in aluminum alloys as well as means for mitigating its impact through inhibitors and coatings. The Department of Energy funds research to develop and validate models for localized corrosion followed by Environment-Assisted Cracking to assist in safe spent nuclear fuel storage.