Materials Blog
No rust in the kitchen ! Print E-mail
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afwasmachineTowards a more Rational use of Materials

From an array of advertising brochures to leaflets of local clubs: even though we put all sort of warning stickers on our mailboxes, they still get crammed with messages that are useless to us. But I must admit that I’ve come to appreciate the magazines of my energy supplier, my distribution system operator and my water supply company.

Rational use of energy and durable water management are terms that I carry with me in my heart and I feel they should get even more attention. It will benefit our wallets, our environment and future generations.

But why don’t we apply the same principles to the manner in which we use materials? We need to look no further than the kitchen. Stainless steel pots and pans, cutlery, the inside of our dishwashers, etc. These are all common goods, and yet by some they’re not properly taken care of. Cue the shouts and complaints about “rust”. And yet, there is a simple rule you can adhere to, in order to avoid corrosion: keep it dry. In other words: after using your stainless steel cutlery, clean it immediately, dry all nooks and crannies and store it in a dry location. A practical tip: no matter how expensive or sophisticated your dishwasher, your cutlery does NOT come out dry. As soon as you open the lid, vapor settles on your dishes. Drying them off with a kitchen towel is very much encouraged. Another tip: do NOT store stainless steel cutlery in cupboards or next to the fume hood. When your food is on the stove some vapor will still escape on both sides of your fume hood, no matter how well you think it works. If you store stainless steel cutlery in an adjoining cupboard, the water vapor will settle onto the cold surfaces. And yet another kitchen tip: for the exact same reason, don’t store dry foods on top of or to the right of left of your fume hood.

Keeping things dry is the first rule when it comes to battling corrosion, but you’ll have a hard time trying to keep your boiler, your water pipes or your garden lamp posts dry. The same thing is true in industrial settings: many industrial appliances come into contact with water and steam fractions during operation. No energy without water, for example. How can we stop corrosion in these sorts of situations? By rationally handling the materials. The use of all sorts of water treatment methods, the correct pressure and temperature, competently checking these and other parameters, adopting a proper purification procedure and applying said procedure without exception: these are all ways in which you can keep the material intact without having to process it into the waste stream. Let’s return to the kitchen: scrubbing a stainless steel pot with a steel or copper brush is a definite no-no; you wouldn’t use a scouring pad on a Teflon pot, would you?

Waste management is not just about the energy-conscious producing and recycling of materials, but also about drastically reducing the waste stream by Rational Use of Materials (RUM), by taking proper care of the materials we already have at our disposal. By making sure that the existing materials remain intact, not necessarily at all costs, but within the limits for which they were originally produced. This stands true for your own kitchen, for the industry sector and for the government.

A more rational use of energy, more durable water management, AND “more Rational Use of Materials”. Future generations will thank us for it.


Frans Vos

General Manager Materials Consult bvba

Visiting professor Corrosion and Erosion prevention, University of Leuven

Materials Consult provides potable water to Tanzanian orphanage Print E-mail
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Foto_Glory_Water_Pipeline_-_3With World Water Day on March 22nd just around the corner, Unicef and the WHO, the World Health Organization, report that some 768 million people – which constitute 11% of the world’s population – still have no access to potable water. The fact that such figures are still possible in these highly technological times, is simply disconcerting. Immediate action is required. And that’s what these international organizations do. But even small initiatives can have a substantial influence. The material science center Materials Consult is involved with studies about the impact of water quality on durability and safety on a daily basis. We were happy to offer a helping hand in constructing a new pipeline that has been directly providing potable water to the Glory orphanage near Dar es Salaam, Tanzania since May 1st of this year.

In the past, the inhabitants used rain water for food preparation and personal hygiene. They would store it in jerry can containers without further treatment and quality control of the water. Thanks to an initiative from Suzanne ter Haar, the NGO Art in Tanzania and the local population, things have now changed for the better. The pipeline now provides the orphanage with potable water, but also the entire community that surrounds it. A beautiful example of how a small-scale initiative can lead to a massive improvement for so many people.

Materials Consult is therefore delighted that they were able to contribute – alongside LievenseCSO and LSNed – to the budget that was needed to provide the orphans, their counselors, and the local community with potable water.


A supporter of the new water storage tank (photo)


Suzanne ter Haar and pastor Joel of the Glory orphanage who took the initiative,

during the inauguration of the pipeline on May 1st, 2014.


Additional information:

About the Glory Water Pipeline: Thank you for clicking “Like”

About World Water Day

Press Release Unicef on the occasion of World Water Day

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Press release: Corrosion sets us back 1.8 trillion euros per year Print E-mail
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The Dutch Fyra trains are marked return to sender. The replacements of the Dutch and Belgian Sea King helicopters are corroding. Last year the Antwerp “boerentoren” (farmers’ tower) was equiped with a cathodic protection system as the steel support structure was showing signs of corrosion. In 2011, lighting poles along the Belgian part of the E19 highway broke because corrosion had done damage at the base of their masts. And what will the sea water do to the Fukushima nuclear plant?

The consequences of corrosion are dire. The expenses caused by corrosion add up to a total of just about 3.1% of the gross national product per year. Globally this constitutes around and about a dizzying 1.8 trillion euros.

Apparently, corrosion is tough to control? It’s true that corrosion is a complex degradation process. Whether it occurs or not depends on a delicate electrochemical balance between the metals and the environment in which they are used. For example, a certain type of metal will behave differently when planted in the soil, compared to being used in fresh water, and differently again when used in sea water. The amount of rainfall and changes to the climate also make a difference. Layers of paint, galvanization, water treatment or the cathodic protection of the Antwerp boerentoren are merely examples of how technology can be adopted to prevent corrosion. But will the use of such technology suffice?

Sadly, the answer is no. No matter how well these technologies were developed, nature always reigns supreme. Corrosion occurs because we’re only able to use most metals after we have used metallurgy on them, thus modifying their natural, stable state. Through the process of corrosion, the metal tries to transform itself back into its natural state (read hereafter more on 'ore stabity'). A world without corrosion can therefore never exist. This also means that we need to do more than simply using techniques for preventing corrosion. A proper selection of materials and a proper design, correctly executing the installation, regular inspection, monitoring and proper maintenance are the keys to corrosion-free industrial installations, vehicles, buildings, home appliances, etc.

In order to prevent all that corrosion damage, we should put the phenomenon in the spotlight, through both training and practice. The education system should inform everyone about corrosion, its causes, and how to prevent it. And not just the academic engineering programs either. Even in grade school and high school teachers should pay more attention to applied science, instead of simply focusing on exact science like math, physics and chemistry. Preventing corrosion is a prime example of the importance of applied science.


Ore stability

Metals are derived from ore. Only a few metals are present in ore in their free state; the most well-known example of this is the precious metal called gold. Most metals are contained in their ore in a chemically bound state; they are tied to oxygen, hydroxide or sulphate ions. If the metal is chemically bound within its ore, then that’s the natural, stable state of that metal. If we want to create steel, for example, we start with the iron oxides and/or iron hydroxides found in iron ore. Using a blast furnace or an electric furnace, we separate the iron from the oxides or hydroxides, which leaves us with iron as a free metal, which we can then use to create cast iron or steel. But the iron within the steel wants to return to its stable state and will therefore try to oxidize back or bind itself to hydroxide ions; the most common type of rust is iron hydroxide.


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The impact of sea water on the new Sea King helicopters Print E-mail
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Helikopter_SeakingA classic morning ritual of mine: doing windmills with my arms in order to get my sore limbs up and running at full speed. Having breakfast while listening to the radio. The first headline blasting at me through the speakers: “The helicopters which are supposed to replace the Sea King, already seem to be affected by sea water”. Talk about windmills… The problem is supposedly already known to Dutch and French forces, and people are concerned that the Belgian helicopters will be suffering the same fate. Is that concern justified?

So, what does sea water actually do to structures that are exposed to it? Honestly, not much good. Sea water is a highly corrosive substance and therefore, many engineers are working hard every day to develop and optimize new methods meant to protect materials used in, on, at, and above the sea from corroding. The main culprits are (among others) the chlorides in the sea water, and more broadly, all of the so-called halogens. Other products contained in sea water can also have a negative impact, such as sulfates, phosphates and certain microbiological organisms. If these products are able to attach themselves to metal structures along with the sea water, they could provoke a process called pitting corrosion. If the sea water manages to affect cracks and crevices, crevice corrosion could occur. When stainless steel parts are exposed to water that contains chlorides at high temperatures, you might get stress corrosion, etc.

“High temperatures in a helicopter?” Sure, near the motors or when bearing systems start to heat up, the temperature of these parts can rise a couple of dozen degrees in a very short period of time. Of course cooling systems are in place where needed, but if those systems somehow lack power, if they aren’t positioned correctly or if there’s something wrong with their controls, problems can be right around the corner. Cracks and crevices can be found everywhere on a helicopter. What’s more: a helicopter is constantly exposed to massive vibrations, and if just one bolt is improperly tightened, it will quickly loosen and lead to crevice corrosion.

We haven’t even discussed the layers of paint yet. Their quality depends on a multitude of different factors. The first is the type of painting system that was chosen – primer, intermediate layers, surface layer; just as important are the quality of the paint itself, the quality of the pretreatment of the paint surface, the application method, ensuring that the previous layer has dried properly before applying the next layer, etc.

helikopter_NH90As you can see, a helicopter is a complicated piece of machinery that is threatened by many types of corrosion risks, just like your heating system and your car are exposed to a lot of corrosive attacks. And yet people still underestimate the importance of protection against said corrosion. Not enough attention is paid to regular inspection and a follow-up of structures which are sensitive to corrosion. The steel reinforcement of the “boekentoren” (book tower) in Ghent (2003), the lighting poles along the E19 highway (2011), the steel support structure of the “boerentoren” (farmers’ tower) in Antwerp (2014) and now the new NH-90 helicopters. Stopping corrosion is a Utopian dream, but it’s about time the prevention of corrosion got a little bit of attention.

Take this tip to heart: by the time you start seeing ‘rust’, it’s already too late. Rust is not the same as corrosion, but rather a consequence of it. Want to know more? Our previous blog post will tell you all about it.

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