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Galvanic Corrosion

Galvanic corrosion (also called ' dissimilar metal corrosion' or wrongly 'electrolysis') refers to corrosion damage induced when two dissimilar materials are coupled in a corrosive electrolyte.

When a galvanic couple forms, one of the metals in the couple becomes the anode and corrodes faster than it would all by itself, while the other becomes the cathode and corrodes slower than it would alone. For galvanic corrosion to occur, three conditions must be present:

  1. Electrochemically dissimilar metals must be present
  2. These metals must be in electrical contact, and
  3. The metals must be exposed to an electrolyte

The relative nobility of a material can be predicted by measuring its corrosion potential. The well known galvanic series lists the relative nobility of certain materials in sea water. A small anode/cathode area ratio is highly undesirable. In this case, the galvanic current is concentrated onto a small anodic area. Rapid thickness loss of the dissolving anode tends to occur under these conditions. Galvanic corrosion problems should be solved by designing to avoid these problems in the first place. Galvanic corrosion cells can be set up on the macroscopic level or on the microscopic level. On the microstructural level, different phases or other microstructural features can be subject to galvanic currents.

Example problem 6.6

Why would some metals, such as titanium for example, which are relatively easy to oxidize can still be found at the top of a galvanic series in seawater ?

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Some examples: