Element-Resolved Corrosion Analysis of Stainless-Type Glass-Forming Steels

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Science  26 Jul 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6144, pp. 372-376
DOI: 10.1126/science.1230081

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Rust Resistance

The rusting of iron and steel can be prevented through the addition of 11% or more chromium. The addition of molybdenum can enhance the corrosion resistance, with a complex interplay between the Cr and Mo atoms. However, if chemical variations exist, corrosion can still occur in localized regions or if the surface layer is mechanically abraded. Duarte et al. (p. 372) studied the corrosive failure of an iron-based glassy alloy. A combination of atom probe tomography, electron microscopy, and x-ray diffraction was used to build up a near atomistic picture of local variations in the metal as it was heated and allowed to crystallize, and the impact these processes have on the corrosion resistance.


Ultrathin passive films effectively prevent the chemical attack of stainless steel grades in corrosive environments; their stability depends on the interplay between structure and chemistry of the constituents iron, chromium, and molybdenum (Fe-Cr-Mo). Carbon (C), and eventually boron (B), are also important constituents of steels, although in small quantities. In particular, nanoscale inhomogeneities along the surface can have an impact on material failure but are still poorly understood. Addressing a stainless-type glass-forming Fe50Cr15Mo14C15B6 alloy and using a combination of complementary high-resolution analytical techniques, we relate near-atomistic insights into increasingly inhomogeneous nanostructures with time- and element-resolved dissolution behavior. The progressive elemental partitioning on the nanoscale determines the degree of passivation. A detrimental transition from Cr-controlled passivity to Mo-controlled breakdown is dissected atom by atom, demonstrating the importance of nanoscale knowledge for understanding corrosion.

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