Materials.Business Weekly ⚙️

October 13, 2020

Quote of the week: “I am an Engineer, I serve mankind, by making dreams come true.” ― Anonymous (fragment of a text supposedly found pinned to a site hut during the construction of the Konkan railway, India).

From The Editor's Corner


We are water

Nowadays, outstanding news is concerned with signs of water in the Moon, Mars, or other objects in the interstellar system. The answer is paramount for several reasons. First of all, life is water. As a consequence, we living beings are “water” and the Earth is the “blue planet”. On average, more than 60 percent of the human body is water. That means that the heart and brain are more than 70 percent water, kidneys, and muscles are almost 80 percent, and the lung is about 83 percent. Survival is conditional on minimum water consumption (about 2-3 liter per day for an adult person). One of the biggest challenges today is to find answers to climate change, and an option could be to get “one planet” more.

Another essential aspect of life is hygiene, or the degree of cleanliness of a person and their environment, seeking the prevention of any disease. Here, we appeal to one of the properties of water-related to its solvent capacity, the "universal solvent" as it is called. Good hygiene is the explanation of a healthier, stronger, taller, and long-life people today, in comparison to predecessor generations. Also, empirical explanations justify the lower affection of Jewish people by the black plague during the Middle Ages, associated with the ritual of hand-washing practice. There's no doubt that sanitation measurements are healthy, mainly now with the occasion of the COVID pandemic, when one of the more significant instructions has to do with frequent hand-washing. In other words, water is essential for a healthy life, too.

A terrifying drought

One of the biggest problems concerning climate change is related to the accelerated growth of water scarcity. It is very well known that this requirement has been a ceaseless difficulty for people and animals, along with history. Droughts have been the culprit of the main vectors (both in direction, and amount) of migration of living beings along with their existence. Currently, 838 million people worldwide do not have enough freshwater to face their basic needs (drinking, cooking, and sanitation), and about one-third of the global population lack access to a basic sanitation system. From the total global water (about 332.5 million cubic miles), only 2.5 percent is freshwater. 68.7 percent of the freshwater is as glaciers and ice caps. 30.1 is groundwater, and just 1.2 percent is surface freshwater and other depots (lakes, soil moisture, atmosphere, swamps/marshes, rivers, and living beings). But droughts are differential by regions, countries, and localities. Australasia and Latin America & the Caribbean, are fortunately because actual renewable freshwater resources per capita are estimated as above 35.000 m3 per year. On the other hand, regions like the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, East Asia, Pacific Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa are below 10.000 m3. Furthermore, by 2025, water withdrawals will be increased by 50 percent in developing countries, and 18 percent in developed ones. The most worrying situation is in the MENA region because per capita availability in 1950 was 4.000 m3, currently is 1.100 3, and predictions indicate that they will drop by half, reaching 550 m3 per person per year in 2050.

By region, the distribution between countries is not equitable, neither. In Latin America, Colombia has 45.668 m3 per person per year, and Argentina 6.843 m3. In Central Europe, Germany has 1.321 m3, and Austria has 6.435 m3. Meanwhile, Bahrain is 3 m3, and Peru is 54.536 m3. But the Peruvian Pacific sub-region, with 66 percent of the total population, only has 2.2 percent of the total available freshwater in the country. Such inequities at several levels are the explanation of the sometimes called “water wars”.

A perennial concern for engineers

Also, the above-described situation is more than enough reason because Goal 6 of the UN 2030 Agenda for sustainable development states the challenge of “ensuring the availability of water and its sustainable management, and sanitation for all”. The specific targets of this UN goal include issues like improving water quality by reducing pollution, minimizing the release of hazardous chemicals and materials, substantially increase water-use efficiency, implement integrated water resources management at all levels, expand capacity-building support in activities as water desalination, and water efficiency. It is not necessary to make big efforts to understand that all these challenges are directly related to materials engineering and specifically to corrosion science and engineering. Most of the access limitations to drinking water are due to lack of infrastructure or poor management.

Solutions to the above requirements had been given by several civilizations. In many cases, human settlements were established close to water sources, especially rivers. Sometimes, fabulous engineering works were built, including meaningful lessons for a sustainable future. Ancient Chinese cities had their urban water system of interconnected elements, including a water supply river, urban channels, an internal draining system, ponds and lakes, fosses, and drainage, with intensive use of bricks and earthen pipelines. Some of them, like the aqueduct in Hangzhou, still in operation after 3000-4000 years of use. Very famous in Europe are the remains and ruins of the Roman aqueducts, monumental engineering works, usually with tens of kilometers of length, including arches, bridges, tunnels, channels, reservoirs, and other original components and hydraulic inventions to guarantee high-quality freshwater to the big cities of that time, in Italy, France, Spain, Turkey, North Africa, and so on. In Rome, the first aqueduct was built in 312 BC. Then, in the 2nd Century C.E., eleven aqueducts supplied about 10 m3/s of water to the City. At that time, the estimated population was between 500,000 and 1,000000 inhabitants. That meant a supply of 800-1.600 L/d/person, a huge amount in comparison to the current supply. One of the highest consumptions in the world, in 2019, was in New York with 447 L/d/p.

Corrosion is always on the lookout

The basic material used by Romans on their aqueduct primary networks, were stone, ceramic brinks, and “Roman Concrete” (pozzolana ash and lime mixed with water or seawater for marine environments). An associated development was related to the distribution network system across the city. Lead pipes were in use 2.000 years ago, but problems arose. At that time, in his book “De Architectura”, Vitruvius wrote that when water moves through leaded pipes, “the lead receives the current of air, the fumes from it occupy the members of the body, and burning them thereupon, rob the limbs of the virtues of the blood. Therefore, it seems that water should not be brought in lead pipes if we desire it to be wholesome.” This concern supports the suggestions of researchers such as Jerome Nriagu, of the University of Michigan, about lead poisoning associated with health problems of the Roman elite, with diseases such as lead poisoning (a neurotoxin), and that may have accelerated the fall of the empire. Then, according to recent studies, it was found that “tap water” from ancient Rome had 100 times more Pb than local spring waters. Although it may be exaggerated that Pb poisoning led to the collapse of an empire. The risk of lead poisoning has been documented in different moments, and today it can be affirmed that it is a relevant public health problem. Not only because of Pb pipes, but accessories and soldering filler material are responsible, too. Last year, Belgian newspapers reported risky levels of Pb in the tap water of some police stations. However, the biggest problem concerning corrosion of the drinking water network happened recently in a developed country was the “Flint water crisis”, a city with more than 100.000 residents, in Michigan (USA).

Corrosion sickens and kills

In April 2014, Flint’s water supply was switched from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, sourced from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the Flint River. Immediately, there were public complaints about water quality. It changed its appearance and odor, people became poisoned by lead, supply networks started to corrode catastrophically, leaks appeared everywhere, and sediment clogged equipment. In the beginning, twelve people died because of Legionnaire’s disease, and the total killed people along the coming months was calculated to about 100. The water supply system was switched back to the former one, on October 16th, 2015. But, in February 2016, more than 600 of 9.300 water tests showed Pb levels above 15 ppb, the federal action limitation. Eleven of the samples revealed above 150 ppb of Pb. Besides, coliform bacteria, and high levels of trihalomethanes (THMs), have been associated with the problem. Not good decisions behind the supplying change are also related to the failure to apply corrosion inhibitors to the water (with a cost of about $150 US dollars a day). Also, bad management that veiled the investigations.

Corrosion costs

Consequences of “Flint’s crisis” included managers’ resignations and dismissals. Fifteen criminal charges, with one of them convicted. Nowadays, victims have been compensated with $600 million US dollars. Furthermore, the affected drinking water system included 930 km of distribution pipe, 7.000 valves, and 28.000 service lines. Root solutions began to be applied, supported on new techniques as machine learning, and to date, more than 26.000 excavations of water service lines had been done, including the change of circa 10.000 Pb pipes, resting about ten percent of the network to be inspected. What could be the total cost of that poor corrosion management decision?

Here, we are in front of another face of aqueducts corrosion, its cost. The “Flint crisis” affected less than 1.000 km of piping. But in the US, and according to the American Water Works Association, the total length of the drinking water piping systems is about 1.900.000 km (two thousand more than the above amount). Also, each year about 240.000 water main breaks happen, much of wish are caused by corrosion. Repairing and replacing old water pipes, over the next two decades, could cost more than $1.000.000 million US dollars. These figures encompass figures of a study about the cost of corrosion on the US drinking water and sewage sector in 2001, showing that the total cost of corrosion was $36.000 million US dollars. In the case of Australia, the second most common reason for leaking in the water sector is corrosion. Many not direct and intangible costs include watering restrictions, flooding, affected infrastructure, remediation, repair, delays on human activities, and others. As a result, the yearly cost of corrosion of the water industry in Australia has been estimated at $91 million Australian dollars. A Colombian study, led by the Editor, showed that the cost of corrosion in the utility sector in 1994 (drinking water, sewage, gas, and electricity), was equivalent to 9.03 percent of the GDP, most of such amount associated with aqueducts. In a more recent study (, the total, direct, and indirect cost of the water supply and drainage systems in China in 2014, was calculated as 3.360 million US dollar.

Good quality drinking water is worth it. Proper management of corrosion in aqueduct networks ensures such quality and saves lives and money. Remember: Protection of materials and equipment is good business!

Prof. Carlos Arroyave, Ph.D. Editor.

Materials Biz News

Smart solutions support corrosion control

A partnership between AkzoNobel and Apellix, a company from Jacksonville (Florida, US) that provides a platform to automate inspection, cleaning, and painting at height (, has allowed the development of a spray painting drone. This equipment is computer controlled, wish enables an autonomous flying, an accurate paint applying, and the capture of some of the procedure data. -Read More-

Enriching the spectrum of engineering materials

One of the most recent developments by COSCO, the Korean steelmaker, is about high manganese steel - HMS. A new member of the family is an alloy for cryogenic applications, which was specifically developed for the storage and transport of liquefied natural gas (LNG). The new contains 22.5 to 25.5 percent of Mn and can withstand until -196 °C with acceptable elongation and ultimate tensile strength. This material has been interim approved by the Maritime Safety Committee of the International Maritime Organization (United Nations), as a proof of its compliance with the international standards. -Read More-

What happens in-between substrate and coating?

Vrije Universiteit of Brussels - VUB, announces that a Ph:D. research by Sven Pletincx, and supervised by Professors Tom Hauffman and Herman Terryn of the Electrochemical and Surface Engineering Research Group, lead to a new method of assessment of the quality of the interphase metal/coating under real conditions, and including the option of adjusting the adhesion strength in advance. A methodology that may be a step in the right direction, according to the VUB news. -Read More-

Spanish literature on Integrated Oil-Field Management

A very well rated (Best Sellers Rank in Petrochemical Engineering: #57 in Kindle Store) new book on the subject, entitled “Gerencia integrada de campos de hidrocarburos“ (ISBN B087R3VZYQ) has been published last May. The author is Julian Velasquez, a senior Geological Engineer with more than 42 years of broad experience in the oil industry. -Read More-

Going deeper into the blue economy

TechnipFMC ( announced the delivery of the last 127 trees, tools, and controls for the largest subsea tree contract in the world for multiple fields, production and injection wells, at the pre-salt geological formations on the Brazilian continental shelves. This is one of the contracts awarded by the UK based firm concerning with construction of subsea infrastructure for the pre-salt Santos basin. One more recent contract for the same basin, awarded almost two years ago, is oriented to furbish subsea infrastructure to the Lapa project, a field yielded to a consortium between Total, Shell, Repsol, and Petrobras, located at 2.150 m under the sea level. -Read More-


Senior coolant additives development specialist - Sint-Denijs-Westrem – Belgium

ARTECO is offering a job vacancy at its Research Center in Sint-Denijs-Westrem – Belgium. The selected person should be in charge of new product development, reporting directly to the global R&D Manager. Candidates must be holding a Master’s or Ph.D. degree in Chemistry or equivalent experience in researching and studying additives in aqueous environments.

Female jobs matter - Geneva, Switzerland

WIPO, the World Intellectual Property Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, is committed to achieving gender parity at all levels of staffing by 2026. One of the strategies WIPO has adopted is the establishment of a “Senior Talented Female Professionals Pool” as a pipeline of candidates for high levels vacancies. Consequently, WIPO is calling for expressions of interest from qualified women to be registered as members of such group, and in time to be considered as candidate for any future vacancy, according to the profile.

Ph.D. student position - Madrid, Spain

Professor Carlos Capdevila ([email protected]) from the National Centre for Metallurgical Research is offering a doctoral position. The research project to be developed is entitled “Alumina forming martensitic heat resistant steels”. According to that, the study aims to develop new grades of CrNiAl martensitic stainless steel parts capable of withstanding much higher temperatures in power generation plants.

Master by research degree scholarships - Melbourne, Australia

RMIT is defined as “a global university of technology, design, and enterprise”. Some of the research subjects currently developed include additive manufacturing, advanced materials, environmental sustainability, innovative structures and materials, and water technologies. Right now, RMIT in a partnership with CSIRO (Australia's national science research agency) is offering “Masters by Research” vacancies to work on projects dealing with engineering.

Networking & Knowledge Exchange

Fostering additive manufacturing high quality - Virtual

The ASTM –The former American Society for Testing and Materials, is inviting to the “International Conference on Additive Manufacturing – ICAM 2020” to be celebrated from November 16th to 20th, 2020. This meeting is been sponsored by the ASTM International Additive Manufactured Center of Excellence. One of the main goals of the ICAM 2020 will be to joint together specialists from many countries to exchange the latest experiences and knowledge on additive manufacturing, with emphasis on the transition of research to standardization, qualification, and certification. Subjects concerning industry standards, design principles, and qualification and certification on metals, polymers, composites, and ceramics will be considered.

Looking for answers to a big deal - Virtual

NACE International, European Branch, is organizing the “European Corrosion Management Virtual Conference”, to be held November 17th-18th 2020. Organizers are inviting to “learn best practices, make industry connections, and discover new solutions”. The main topics to be considered include asset integrity and risk management, materials and cost of corrosion, Corrosion R&D, corrosion management of biomedical materials and medical devices, digital transformation, innovation & smart assets, and corrosion management systems and project design. Two keynote Speakers included: Elaine Bowman, the only woman that had served as President of NACE International, and specialized in internal corrosion for pipeline systems, and Prafull Sharma, Chief Technology Officer at CorrosionRADAR Ltd (UK), a specialist in industrial technology development for asset integrity and automation in the oil & gas industry.

Strengthening organizations - Virtual

NACE International, Vietnam Branch, is calling NACE Vietnam Members & Non-Members, to attend the “NACE First Virtual Meeting in Vietnam” to be held on Friday, October 30th, 2020, from 13:00 to 14:00 (Vietnam Time). The agenda includes NACE updates, NACE tools, and an outstanding space for networking.

Computational aids for piping caring - Virtual

Siemens Industry Software Inc., in partnership with Xodus Group, is inviting to a free live webinar on fatigue failure prevention, entitled “Assessing and diagnosing multiphase flow-induced vibration problems in hydrocarbon production piping systems with CFD”. The event will be held on October 22nd, 2020, from 11:00 - 12:00 (GMT+1).

Working toward the new engineering materials revolution - Virtual

“Materials Australia”, the Institute of Materials Engineering Australasia Ltd., is organizing the “Robert C Gifkins Annual Lecture 2020”, to be offered on Thursday, October 22nd, 2020, at 17:00 (Australian Eastern Time). The invited speaker is Prof. Nick Birbilis of Australian National University, and he will be presenting the subject “Recent Trends in Materials Design”.

Photo by Sheri Hooley on Unsplash