Minister compares cancer research with corrosion research Print E-mail
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Feelings of revulsion and feelings of sympathy at the same time: it’s an odd mix of feelings I experienced today when I read this statement of Dr. Abdulhussain Mirza, minister of energy of the Kingdom of Bahrein. I quote:

"The medical profession and research institutes worldwide spend millions of dollars each year to find cures for diseases, most notably cancer. Humanity must devote similar efforts to cure the cancer of metals - corrosion."

I completely agree with the common feeling that it’s somehow out of proportion to make a comparison between life saving research and research on corrosion prevention, yet as an engineer I can somehow understand the minister’s statement as well. On a world scale corrosion yearly results in economic losses for a total value of many billions of euro’s. These losses are not only related to production losses, repair operations, security measures and possible environmental damage. Work accidents and the related medical and sentimental losses are at least as important. Corrosion is only the beginning of something that – in the worst case – can lead to enormous medical costs as well.

geroeste_auto_in_veldIf your imagination now slips off to industrial installations only, you clearly live off world. Imagine your car. Long time ago you would be lucky if your car body resisted corrosion for more than five to seven years. Nowadays many car manufacturers guarantee corrosion resistance for much longer periods, thanks to intensive research on improved and new corrosion protection methodologies. Without an adequate substrate preparation and superior paints our car body would much sooner fall apart. The same accounts as to the steel wheel axles underneath your car, where rupture is prevented not only by taking strength considerations into account, yet also by considering  possible corrosion risks and to develop an appropriate corrosion protection system. Indeed, car manufacturers and universities together yearly spend millions of euro’s in the fight against corrosion. To continue the reasoning of the minister in my own words: “Corrosion prevention is the preventive health care of metals, required to fight the corrosion disease and indispensible to prevent the previously mentioned consequences of corrosion from happening”.

In conclusion: despite my initially mixed feelings as to the statement of the minister, his comparison is not so bad after all. The enormous corrosion damage that is continuously created in our society and to our planet is difficult to imagine. Research on corrosion and corrosion prevention is indispensible and will remain necessary as long as metals dominate our technological society … hence forever. An increased funding of corrosion research by governments and industry is therefore not only a wish, yet essential.


Dr. ir. Frans Vos

General Manager Materials Consult


More information:

The article with the quote

Study on the cost of corrosion - World Corrosion Organisation WCO

Study on the cost of corrosion in the United States - National Association of Corrosion Engineers NACE