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Iron is one of the widely distributed elements in the nature.

One of its striking characteristics is that it undergoes rusting on combining with water, air & carbon-dioxide due to which its surface gets covered with a red brown flake coating called "RUST". RUST is affected by moisture, oxygen & carbon - dioxide. RUST is soft and porous and it gradually falls off from the surface of iron material. It is a continuous process and it gradually eats up iron due to which an iron object loses its strength. It is very wasteful process and should be prevented. It is very-very slow process. R ust is the common name for a very common compound, iron oxide. Iron oxide, the chemical Fe2O3, is common because iron combines very readily with oxygen -- so readily, in fact, that pure iron is only rarely found in nature. Iron (or steel) rusting is an example of corrosion -- an electrochemical process involving an anode (a piece of metal that readily gives up electrons), an electrolyte (a liquid that helps electrons move) and a cathode (a piece of metal that readily accepts electrons). When a piece of metal corrodes, the electrolyte helps provide oxygen to the anode. As oxygen combines with the metal, electrons are liberated. When they flow through the electrolyte to the cathode, the metal of the anode disappears, swept away by the electrical flow or converted into metal cations in a form such as rust. For iron to become iron oxide, three things are required: iron, water and oxygen. Here's what happens when the three get together When a drop of water hits an iron object, two things begin to happen almost immediately. First, the water, a good electrolyte, combines with carbon dioxide in the air to form a weak carbonic acid, an even better electrolyte. As the acid is formed and the iron dissolved, some of the water will begin to break down into its component pieces -- hydrogen and oxygen. The free oxygen and dissolved iron bond into iron oxide, in the process freeing electrons. The electrons liberated from the anode portion of the iron flow to the cathode, which may be a piece of a metal less electrically reactive than iron, or another point on the piece of iron itself. The chemical compounds found in liquids like acid rain, seawater and the salt-loaded spray from snow-belt roads make them better electrolytes than pure water, allowing their presence to speed the process of rusting on iron and other forms of corrosion on other metals.

Theory - Rusting of Iron

When a piece of iron metal is exposed to humid atmosphere, its gets covered with a red brown substance called "Rust". Rusting of iron can be explained on the basis of electro CHEMICAL THEORY as follows : 1. Water vapours on the surface of the metal dissolved carbon-dioxide and oxygen from the air. Thus the surface of metal is covered with the solution of carbon-dioxide with water, i.e. carbonic acid :The rusting of iron is an electrochemical process that begins with the transfer of electrons from iron to oxygen.

The iron is the reducing agent (gives up electrons) while the oxygen is the

oxidising agent (gains electrons). The rate of corrosion is affected by water and accelerated by electrolytes, as illustrated by the effects of road salt on the corrosion of automobiles. The key reaction is the reduction of oxygen: O2 + 4e + 2H2O 4OH

Because it forms hydroxide ions, this process is strongly affected by the presence of acid. Indeed, the corrosion of most metals by oxygen is accelerated at low pH. Providing the electrons for the above reaction is the oxidation of iron that may be described as follows: Fe Fe

+ 2 e

The following redox reaction also occurs in the presence of water and is crucial to the formation of rust: 4Fe

+ O2 4Fe


+ 2O

In addition, the following multistep acid-base reactions affect the course of rust formation: Fe Fe
2+ 3+

+ 2H2O Fe(OH)2 + 2H + 3H2O Fe(OH)3 + 3H

as do the following dehydration equilibria: Fe(OH)2 FeO + H2O Fe(OH)3 FeO(OH) + H2O 2FeO(OH) Fe2O3 + H2O From the above equations, it is also seen that the corrosion products are dictated by the availability of water and oxygen. With limited dissolved oxygen, iron(II)-containing materials are favoured, including FeO and black lodestone or magnetite (Fe3O4). High oxygen concentrations favour ferricmaterials with the nominal formulae Fe(OH)3-xOx/2. The nature of rust changes with time, reflecting the slow rates of the reactions of solids.

Furthermore, these complex processes are affected by the presence of other ions, such as Ca , both of which serve as an electrolyte, and thus accelerate rust formation, or combine with the hydroxides and oxides of iron to precipitate a variety of Ca-Fe-O-OH species. Onset of rusting can also be detected in laboratory with the use of Ferroxyl indicator solution. The solution detects both Fe


ions and hydroxyl ions. Formation of Fe


ions and hydroxyl ions are

indicated by blue and pink patches respectively.

Type of Iron Rust Generalized Corrosion/Rust

Generalized corrosion is a type of rust that spreads out evenly across the entire surface of the iron or alloy. Generalized corrosion typically occurs in shallow layers, and does not penetrate far beyond the surface. It is fairly easy to treat and remove, and is the least damaging of all types of corrosion or rust. Generalized corrosion typically occurs in an environment with a low corrosion rate or with a form of corrosion control.

Pitting Corrosion/Rust

Pitting rust, also called "deposit corrosion," is a type of rust that occurs only at small localized areas, where it penetrates deeper into the metal surface, creating a pockmarked or "pitted" surface. Pitting corrosion typically occurs separately from generalized rust, and occurs as a result of surface deposits, improper protective surface, pre-existing imperfections, or another initiating mechanism.

Galvanic Corrosion

Galvanic corrosion is a type of rust that occurs as a result of an electrochemical reaction. This type of rust typically occurs when other metals are present, as the metals operate like the poles of a battery. For instance, galvanic corrosion is common in iron or steel pipes that have been connected to copper tubing; the steel or iron acts as an anode while the copper or brass acts as a cathode. The electrochemical reaction between the two causes galvanic corrosion, an aggressive and localized form of oxidization (rust).

Green Rust

Green rust is a type of rust that occurs when iron reacts with chlorine ions in an environment with low oxygen. This results in the formation of a series of iron hydroxides, which are green in color, resulting in the colloquial name "green rust." This type of rust typically occurs in seawater, which is high in chlorine content without an excess of dissolved oxygen; for example, reinforcement bars that are located underwater in the ocean often accumulate thick layers of green rust.

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Because of the widespread use and importance of iron and steel products, the prevention or slowing of rust is the basis of major economic activities in a number of specialized technologies. A brief overview of methods is presented here; for detailed coverage, see the cross-referenced articles. Rust is permeable to air and water, therefore the interior metallic iron beneath a rust layer continues to corrode. Rust prevention thus requires coatings that preclude rust formation.

Rust-resistant alloys
Stainless steel forms a passivation layer of chromium(III) oxide. Similar passivation behavior occurs with magnesium, titanium, zinc, zinc oxides, aluminium, polyaniline, and other electroactive conductive polymers. Special "weathering steel" alloys such as Cor-Ten rust at a much slower rate than normal, because the rust adheres to the surface of the metal in a protective layer. Designs using this material must include measures that avoid worst-case exposures, since the material still continues to rust slowly even under near-ideal conditions.


Interior rust in old galvanized iron water pipes can result in brown and black water.

Galvanization consists of an application on the object to be protected of a layer of metallic zinc by either hot-dip galvanizing or electroplating. Zinc is traditionally used because it is cheap, adheres well to steel, and provides cathodic protection to the steel surface in case of damage of the zinc

layer. In more corrosive environments (such as salt water), cadmium plating is preferred. Galvanization often fails at seams, holes, and joints where there are gaps in the coating. In these cases, the coating still provides some partial cathodic protection to iron, by acting as a galvanic anode and corroding itself instead of the underlying protected metal. The protective zinc layer is consumed by this action, and thus galvanization provides protection only for a limited period of time. More modern coatings add aluminium to the coating as zinc-alume; aluminium will migrate to cover scratches and thus provide protection for a longer period. These approaches rely on the aluminium and zinc oxides re-protecting a once-scratched surface, rather than oxidizing as a sacrificial anode as in traditional galvanized coatings. In some cases, such as very aggressive environments or long design life, both zinc and a coating are applied to provide enhanced corrosion protection.

Cathodic protection
Cathodic protection is a technique used to inhibit corrosion on buried or immersed structures by supplying an electrical charge that suppresses the electro-chemical reaction. If correctly applied, corrosion can be stopped completely. In its simplest form, it is achieved by attaching a sacrificial anode, thereby making the iron or steel the cathode in the cell formed. The sacrificial anode must be made from something with a more negative electrode potential than the iron or steel, commonly zinc, aluminium, or magnesium. The sacrificial anode will eventually corrode away, ceasing its protective action unless it is replaced in a timely manner. Cathodic protection can also be provided by using a special-purpose electrical device to appropriately induce an electric charge

Coatings and painting

Rust formation can be controlled with coatings, such as paint, lacquer, or varnish that isolate the iron from the environment. Large structures with enclosed box sections, such as ships and modern automobiles, often have a wax-based product (technically a "slushing oil") injected into these sections. Such treatments usually also contain rust inhibitors. Covering steel with concrete can provide some protection to steel because of the alkaline pH environment at the steel-concrete interface. However rusting of steel in concrete can still be a problem, as expanding rust can fracture or slowly "explode" concrete from within. As a closely related example, iron bars were used to reinforce stonework of

the Parthenon in Athens, Greece, but caused extensive damage by rusting, swelling, and shattering the marble components of the building. When only temporary protection is needed for storage or transport, a thin layer of oil, grease, or a special mixture such as Cosmoline can be applied to an iron surface. Such treatments are

extensively used when "mothballing" a steel ship, automobile, or other equipment for long-term storage. Special anti-seize lubricant mixtures are available, and are applied to metallic threads and other precision machined surfaces to protect them from rust. These compounds usually contain grease mixed with copper, zinc, or aluminum powder, and other proprietary ingredients.
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Corrosion inhibitors, such as gas-phase or volatile inhibitors, can be used to prevent corrosion inside sealed systems. They are not effective when air circulation disperses them, and brings in fresh oxygen and moisture.

Humidity control
Rust can be avoided by controlling the moisture in the atmosphere. An example of this is the use of silica gel packets to control humidity in equipment shipped by sea.