The Energy of Innovation at The University of Akron

Rust-busting in the Rust Belt enhances public safety

Rust busters

When corrosion engineers drive across bridges and highways in the famed “Rust Belt,” they notice little things that could mean big trouble: They look for signs of rust on steel girders; they look for color posts that signify a pipeline buried beneath the ground and wonder about potential for leaks.

“We call corrosion a ‘natural feasible process’ because it is normal when steel or metals are exposed to water, air, chemical elements and heat,” explains Dr. Homero Castaneda-Lopez, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at The University of Akron. “But this natural process can be managed through corrosion engineering. We can slow the process by mitigating or controlling actions, so that we create a safer structure and friendlier environment.”

Consider corrosion’s impact on society. Economic expense aside, a corroding gas pipeline is vulnerable to leakage that can harm the environment, losses of assets and cause human casualties. Deteriorating columns in a bridge can cause the entire structure to collapse. Everything made with metal, from pipelines to power plants, from hip implants to other medical devices, can be corroded. This proverbial squeaky wheel resounds at an amplified tune of $400 billion a year in cost to the nation, damage to the environment and danger to human life.

The University of Akron has taken on an unprecedented role in reversing corrosion’s costly economic and safety consequences by offering the nation’s first baccalaureate program in corrosion engineering. Often referred to as “rust busters,” the students in this exciting new program combine the study of science and engineering with a concentration in corrosion. Management coursework and co-op experiences prepare graduates for immediate workforce entry.

“I think of us also as ‘Rust Controllers’ and ‘Rust Busters.’ Our program provides real-world experience for students and real-world solutions for society,” says Dr. Castaneda-Lopez. “It’s also our job to teach a new cultural attitude toward corrosion that will improve public safety. We should apply what we learn in the management of corrosion to every thing we design and build in this nation and around the globe.”

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Interview with Dr. Homero  Castaneda-Lopez

The prevalence of corrosion across our landscape

Corrosion is nature's attempt to convert metals
back to their original mineral state

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