UVA researchers accelerate corrosion

Robert Kelly, AT&T Professor of Engineering in the University of Virginia’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, is able to launch pieces of metal into the future, accelerating their aging through corrosion, the degradation of materials. He did this recently for Rolls-Royce, subjecting small, curved, ceramic-coated jet engine compressor blades to an aggressive salt spray test that accelerates the damage processes they would face in an airplane turbine.


“This compressor blade is made of stainless steel and would be coated with a thin ceramic,â€? he said. “Jet engines suck in a lot of dust particles at a high speed. And if you have a carrier-based aircraft, it will also see a lot more salt water in the form of sea salt aerosols.â€?

Kelly said Rolls-Royce, which is partnering with the University in three prestigious research centers, produces the blades and coats them with ceramic material. A thinner coating means the blade is lighter and can turn faster, but too thin a coating will allow corrosion to propagate under the pressure of flight and environmental conditions.

Kelly’s research group currently focuses on atmospheric localized corrosion; localized corrosion in high-performance alloys in marine, spent nuclear fuel canister and aerospace applications; and multi-scale modeling of corrosion processes.

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