Crevice Corrosion

Crevice corrosion is a type of localized corrosion that occurs in confined spaces between two surfaces. This can happen in narrow gaps, crevices, or joints, where oxygen and other corrosive agents can become trapped and create a localized environment that is conducive to corrosion.

Mechanism of crevice corrosion

Corrosion Mechanism

The mechanism of crevice corrosion is quite complex as it involves multiple stages.

In the first stage, a crevice is formed, which can occur, for instance, by inserting a bolt into a plate. This creates a narrow space between the two metal surfaces, where the diffusion of substances becomes hindered, leading to the stagnation of corrosive substances such as seawater. Due to naturally occurring reactions, the oxygen quickly depletes in the gap, and the concentration of metal ions increases. This leads to the formation of a galvanic couple, with the crevice becoming anodic and the surrounding area becoming cathodic.

In the second stage, the galvanic couple promotes corrosion in the crevice through the reduction of oxygen at the cathode. Consequently, the positive potential at the anode attracts negative hydroxide and chloride ions into the crevice. Within the crevice, the hydroxide and chloride ions react with the metal, gradually making the anodic region more acidic.

The third stage is triggered when the pH within the crevice drops to a critical level, causing the breakdown of the passive layer. At this point, corrosion progresses rapidly until the structure eventually falls apart.

Corrosion Detection

Detecting crevice corrosion can be challenging as it often occurs in concealed or hard-to-reach areas. However, there are several signs that can help identify its presence:

Detecting crevice corrosion through visual inspection involves a thorough examination of metal surfaces, with a focus on crevices, joints, and areas where metals meet. Look for localized damage such as pitting or roughness, along with discoloration or staining around crevices. Pay attention to changes in texture or the presence of deposits or debris. Monitor for signs of leakage or staining. Adequate lighting and magnification can enhance visibility. However, visual inspection may have limitations, and additional testing techniques or monitoring systems may be necessary for a comprehensive assessment.

Detecting crevice corrosion through non-destructive testing methods provides valuable insights into hidden or hard-to-reach areas. Techniques such as ultrasonic testing, X-ray inspection, or electrical conductivity measurements can be employed. Ultrasonic testing uses sound waves to identify corrosion in crevices, while X-ray inspection reveals internal corrosion. Electrical conductivity measurements can indicate changes in the material’s corrosion resistance. These non-destructive methods enable the assessment of crevice corrosion without causing damage to the structure, allowing for early detection and appropriate maintenance actions to be taken.

Corrosion sensors offer a reliable method for detecting crevice corrosion in real-time. These sensors can be placed within crevices or critical areas prone to corrosion. They work by monitoring changes in electrical conductivity, pH levels, or corrosion potential. By continuously measuring these parameters, corrosion sensors provide early indications of crevice corrosion onset or progression. This proactive approach enables prompt intervention and targeted maintenance to mitigate further damage. Corrosion sensors serve as valuable tools for monitoring and detecting crevice corrosion, helping to ensure the integrity and longevity of structures and equipment.

Examples of Crevice Corrosion

Crevice corrosion can occur in various everyday situations. Here are a few examples:

Stainless steel kitchen appliances: Crevice corrosion may develop around joints, seams, or fasteners in stainless steel sinks, faucets, or other kitchen appliances. The confined spaces and exposure to moisture can lead to crevice corrosion.

Outdoor furniture: Metal furniture, such as wrought iron or aluminum, can experience crevice corrosion in areas where different components are joined or where water accumulates. Crevice corrosion can cause localized damage and compromise the structural integrity of the furniture.

Automotive applications: Crevice corrosion can affect automobiles in areas such as the undercarriage, where components like brackets, fasteners, or body panels are exposed to moisture and road salt. Crevice corrosion can lead to rust and weakening of the affected parts.

Piping systems: Pipes made of metals like steel or copper can suffer from crevice corrosion at connections, fittings, or areas where insulation or protective coatings are damaged. Crevice corrosion in plumbing systems can lead to leaks, reduced flow, or even pipe failure.

Outdoor structures: Metal fences, railings, or gates exposed to the elements are susceptible to crevice corrosion at joints, fasteners, or where moisture becomes trapped. The corrosive environment, combined with the presence of crevices, increases the risk of corrosion.

Corrosion Prevention

Preventing crevice corrosion involves implementing effective strategies to mitigate the factors that contribute to its occurrence. Here are some key methods to consider:

  1. Proper design and construction: Start by designing structures or components with minimal crevices or incorporating smooth transitions between metal surfaces. Avoid creating crevices or gaps where moisture can accumulate. Adequate sealing or gasket materials should be used in joints or connections to prevent the ingress of corrosive substances.
  2. Protective coatings: Apply suitable protective coatings to metal surfaces to create a barrier against moisture and corrosive agents. Coatings such as paints, epoxy coatings, or corrosion-resistant films can help seal crevices and provide a protective layer, reducing the likelihood of crevice corrosion.
  3. Regular inspection and maintenance: Conduct routine inspections to identify early signs of crevice corrosion. Regularly clean crevices or areas prone to corrosion to remove debris, salts, or other substances that could contribute to corrosion initiation. Promptly repair or replace damaged coatings or seals to maintain the integrity of the system.
  4. Proper material selection: Choose materials that are resistant to corrosion in the specific environment or application. Stainless steel, for example, exhibits good resistance to crevice corrosion in many conditions. Consider the compatibility of different metals in contact to prevent galvanic corrosion, which can promote crevice corrosion.
  5. Controlled environment: Control the environment around metal structures to minimize exposure to corrosive elements. Keep moisture levels low, control humidity, and avoid prolonged exposure to aggressive chemicals or corrosive media.
  6. Cathodic protection: Implement cathodic protection techniques, such as impressed current or sacrificial anode systems, to provide a protective electrical potential and mitigate crevice corrosion in susceptible areas. These methods can help counteract the galvanic effects and protect vulnerable surfaces.
  7. Corrosion inhibitors: Consider the use of corrosion inhibitors, which can be applied to crevices or incorporated into the system to provide an additional layer of protection. Corrosion inhibitors work by inhibiting the electrochemical reactions that lead to corrosion.

By implementing a combination of these preventive measures, it is possible to significantly reduce the risk of crevice corrosion. Each application may require a tailored approach based on the specific conditions and materials involved. Regular monitoring, maintenance, and periodic assessments of the corrosion prevention measures will ensure their ongoing effectiveness in preventing crevice corrosion.