Materials.Business Weekly ⚙️

December 22, 2020

Quote of the week: “Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, and determines your destiny.” — Aristotle (384-322 BCE).​

From The Editor's Corner


New citizens

A few years ago, the world became immersed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the I-4.0, an era characterized by integrating the physical and virtual worlds. This era has introduced an extraordinary citizen, traveler, and whatever else you could think of; “she” is called Sophia, the social humanoid developed by Hong Kong based Hanson Robotics. @realsophiarobot is a public figure and distinguished ambassador of a family including other VIR such as Pepper, created by SoftBank Robotics, a receptionist, sales clerk, nanny, and recently a coding teacher. Surena is a cousin in charge of scientific research and coaching in engineering education, created by Mechanical Engineers at the Iranian University of Tehran. Meanwhile, Kime, developed by Macco Robotics in Spain, can dazzle you by serving up to 300 glasses of beer per hour at the bar. Digit is helping with logistic tasks in warehouses, and right now, it is being trained by the Ford Company as a car driver in charge of package delivery. Armar, developed by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (Germany), is doing maintenance tasks in industrial settings. T-HR3, created by Toyota, is waiting for debuting as a real avatar in Tokyo’s coming Olympic Games. Other Sophia relatives are devoted to entertainment, while others are training for space exploration and other human collaborative activities. However, the most familiar members of this VIR family are Alexa (Google) and Siri (Apple), our home and personal assistants, who are almost a vital part of some of our families already.

They are not alone

A new generation of pets is also arriving. Nowadays, we can be accompanied by Aibo, Sony’s dog (Japan), or Sota, designed the NTT (also Japan), the pet who takes care of older adults. Furthermore, other than just robots, other creations can be associated with the fact that electronics and technology are at their peak in the last few years, thanks to nanotechnology and other things. One of the two branches of globalization, the Information Society, is supported by an accelerated growing network of telecommunication systems on the earth, under the oceans, in the sky, and space. Vast amounts of digital information are stored and processed in servers and computers, increasing permanently in number and capacity for backing all the mentioned activities. Our smartphones also support this branch of globalization. Communication between people, including between humans and objects, and objects between objects, is a reality today, whereby sensors and other gadgets are necessary. Electric mobile devices, sometimes operated by people, and other times not, in essence, have started to not only cross the streets and the sky worldwide (electric cars, autonomous trucks, flying drones, underwater drones, etc.) but also inside our bodies (micro and nanoelectromechanical systems). These devices have a high impact on how we live in our homes and come in the forms of cooling and freezing equipment, screens and monitors, lamps, washing and drying machines, and small equipment and toys, etc.

A plethora of disruptive confluent technologies has been propelled by the crisis caused by the SARS-CoV-2. The new normal after Corona will be more digital, more virtual; it will follow social distancing rules and behaviors. People become less risky and more careful with their health, a sensitivity to environmental issues. Therefore, this means new requirements in many fronts of the production activities and beyond, such as information technologies, the health sector, materials usage, robotics, education, energy, transportation, industry, research, sports, leisure, etc. In general, much better software and hardware will be demanded. However, it will be requested under sustainable conditions for suitable coming development.

Corrosionists: The family doctors

When we talk about Sophia and her relatives, we are talking about a bundle of wires, cables, circuits, contacts, sensors, bearings, motors, actuators, transducers, screws, cameras, converters, body parts, pieces of the skin, and many other hardware items. All of these components are part of the physical world, now integrated with the digital one. Here, we are referring to materials management, protection, and integrity. In Sophia's case, we are essentially talking about her health and how the doctors must be corrosion scientists and engineers in this scenario. Corrosion protection is directly related to human development, especially in the coming decades, when working or producing goods as those mentioned above. Others like medical devices, biosensors, fuel cells, wearables, solar panels, and the new world of micro and nanoelectronics. Corrosion is the main restriction on many of these devices. It is also a relevant reason for one of the currently growing concerns about electronic waste (e-waste or Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment - WEEE). It is estimated that in 2019, the global e-waste generated was about 54 million tons or 7.3 kg per capita worldwide, and the projected amount in ten years will be 75 million tons ().

​Corrosion of electro-electronic equipment becomes more critical each day because consumption rates are snowballing due to the current industrial revolution. Moreover, sustainability apprehensions are related not only to e-waste increase but also because of other factors like:

- Accelerated shortage of strategic raw materials: Estimations done by the United Nations University concluded that currently there is more gold in e-waste than in gold ores. Corrosion prevention must be a counter measurement against such accelerated depletion. Materials engineers must also implement new measures to develop urban mining in the search for secondary raw materials.

- Short life cycles: in principle, this is a market strategy. Nevertheless, there is growing pressure from different social sectors asking for longer-life products. This means products with better corrosion resistance and more responsibilities for corrosion engineers.

- Lack of repair options: this problem is directly related to the point above and the fact that a lot of current equipment does not have opportunities to be repaired when they break. The Circular Economy principles ask for equipment that is more easily fixable and can be revamped with no particular difficulties.

- Recyclability: this point concerns the need for products to be more easily recyclable. This fact is related to the design and manufacturing processes, where materials and corrosion engineers have a paramount role.

- Human health: lastly, a decrease in e-waste production will have a positive impact on the associated adverse health effects due to the exposure of toxins that cause congenital disabilities, learning skills, cardiovascular health, immune system performance, hearing capabilities, cancer appearance, and so on.

What materials are we talking about?

One hundred fifty years ago, during the beginning of electric power transmission and its broad usage, such problems were similar. Both structural and functional materials were involved, meaning that steel, galvanized steel, cast iron, silver, copper, aluminum, and soldering materials like tin and lead were used. Today, electro-electronic equipment and goods include more than half of the elements found on the Periodic Table. There are traditional engineering materials such as steel and aluminum (the demand in 2019 was over 32 million tons of ferrous alloys and 4 million tons of aluminum). Precious metals like gold (c.a.200 tons), silver (1.200 tons), platinum (2.5 tons), and copper (2.4 million tons), in addition to palladium, ruthenium, rhodium, iridium, and osmium. Additionally, critical raw materials are also used, such as cobalt, germanium, bismuth, and antimony. Lastly, there are the minor metals used in semiconductors (Si, Ga, As, Ge, In, and P). The group of metals that are being used for electric vehicles and their batteries includes Li, Co, Ni, Mn, C (graphite), B, Ce, Cu, Dy, Ga, Ge, Au, In, La, Pb, Nd, Pd, Pr, Sm, Tb, and Ti.

​​What problems are we worried about?


From the corrosion point of view, we are talking about most of the currently existing technical elements. Moreover, we must consider other protective materials like coatings. Anti-corrosive protection challenges start with handling the crazy amounts of different materials that we come into contact with. These materials and pieces that are usually part of electrified systems pose the risk of stray currents and are exposed to thermal, mechanical, chemical, electrochemical efforts. In short, this is the perfect breeding ground for the establishment of infinite options of galvanic corrosion pairs.

The size of the problems

In the case of electrical issues, most of the time, corrosion happens at a common scale. Corrosion cells are macroscopic, and attack is visible with the naked eye. Corrosion cell conditions are always met, including the crucial controlling relationship between the cathodic and anodic areas. In principle, some level of attack is permissible before the damaged area is out of service. Inevitably, the cost of corrosion in the electric sector is high. According to the latest study in the USA, in 1998, the cost of corrosion in electrical utilities was 14 percent of the total direct cost of metallic corrosion, nearly $6900 million US dollars. Nevertheless, considering electronic goods, scale and corrosion cells become very small, sometimes microscopic or even nanoscopic. Consequently, tiny parts are easily affected by any attack, no matter how little it is. Anodic areas are minimal, and the effect of any starting attack can be catastrophic for the part and the equipment as a whole. In other words, electronic equipment is susceptible to corrosive attacks and must be very well protected for good performance. Any corrosion risk at the macroscale level is magnified in the case of electronic goods. Under these conditions, it is impossible to imagine parts of equipment directly exposed to very aggressive environments such as water, gases, or soils. In most cases, atmospheric exposure is the only possibility, and most corrosion problems are associated with atmospheric corrosion. But here, variables such as relative humidity, pollution levels, nature of pollutants, temperature regimes, deposition rates, vibrations, etc., have more significant consequences than in cases other than electronic equipment.

Where do the problems occur?

We must look at atmospheric environments; this means that the starting point could be any situation of atmospheric corrosion in rural, urban, industrial, or marine atmospheres and all the characteristics of a specific microclimate. However, most of the time, real atmospheric exposure of electronic equipment is modified by factors as indoor exposure, the so-called stove effect, and pollutants as volatile organic compounds released by flux residues or printed circuit boards. Subsequently, specific studies have been created that look for information about the behavior of materials, parts, and goods in such environments. Until the 1990s, most of those studies were done in the Northern Temperate Zone of the world, and the standards and guidelines produced were oriented to answer such conditions. Then, studies in Subtropical and Tropical Zones were developed, and some of the currently available data concern these Zones, too. For instance, some research was done by a team from the University of Antioquia, in Medellin - Colombia, whereby they characterized the behavior of some metals used as electro-electronic materials that were exposed to three different tropical-mountain environments, rural, urban, and industrial. In this research, the stove effect inside electrical boxes was simulated, and differences concerning higher temperatures inside the boxes quickly became evident. On the one hand, the initial rates of corrosive attack increased, but it was impossible to find correlations between pollutants’ levels and the corrosion rates.

Looking to the future for an increasingly virtual world

Some of the hardware that supports modern life is expected to become virtual. However, the total number of electronic products will continue to multiply. But if we are truly responsible, this future development must be carried out within the framework of a vision such as that of the Circular Economy. Some companies, laboratories, and universities currently research the corrosion and protection of electro electronic materials. For example, research on designs less sensitive to corrosion, new manufacturing procedures, coatings against space environments, and many other types of research and recent developments. However, EEE's expected demand prompts further research on the corrosion and protection of electro electronic materials. We need to take care of Sophia's health, and a more profound commitment is required from the corrosion engineers.

Remember: Protection of materials and equipment is good business!

Prof. Carlos Arroyave, Ph.D. Editor.

Materials Biz News

Thank you, Professor George Thompson

Sadly, some days ago Prof. George E. Thompson passed away. His absence leaves a great empty in the community of corrosionists. He was an excellent colleague, and also one of the prolific researchers dealing with corrosion and anticorrosion of light alloys. More than one thousand papers, a lot of conferences, a crowd of educated students now working worldwide, and a lot of industrial consultancies, are part of his legacy. Certainly. George was a faithful representative of the renowned school of corrosion and protection at the University of Manchester.

Colleagues doing well

The Corrosion Department of the Research Institutes of Sweden - RISE, formerly the Swedish Corrosion Institute, has published the latest issue of the “Corrosion News” yearly report. As RISE is, the Corrosion Department is a meeting point for industry, government, and academy, sharing costs and developing joint industrial projects about asset integrity. In such frame, some of the articles included in the new report are talking about “New aerospace materials require defined test procedures”, “Solutions for greater sustainability in the automotive industry”, “Experimental R&D for H2S related corrosion”, “New knowledge on weak links in polymers”, “Better understanding of soils increases infrastructure safety”, “Solves upcoming challenges in the pulp and paper industry”, “R&D projects for tomorrow’s pre-painted metal”, and so on.


Fighting greenhouse gas emissions

The CCSU - Carbon Capture, Storage, and Utilization, an international movement is advancing encouragingly. Conversion of CO2 to CO and other useful compounds is chemically feasible. Cost and scaling of the process have been barriers difficult to overpassing. However, researches like those recently advanced by Prof. Thomas F. Jaramillo and collaborators, at Stanford University, open new opportunities. According to Prof. Jaramillo, electro reduction of CO2 on copper electrodes, it is possible to obtain at least 11 different products including aldehydes, ketones, alcohols, and carboxylic acids. The climate crisis as a source of innovation, according to the Schumpeterian process of creative destruction, is associated with the end-less capacity of humankind to find a solution to the problems generated by its advancements. As a result, carbon dioxide could be a future important secondary raw material thanks to the efforts of materials scientists and engineers.

-Read More-


Internships for USA Graduate Students United States.

In a partnership between the National Science Foundation and Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), have decided to support the training of graduate students, aligned with the common purpose of fostering the discovery, development, and delivery of new technologies for the USA air, space and cyberspace forces. Graduate students must have completed at least one academic year in their graduate programs (master's or doctoral). Locations include New York, Ohio, New Mexico, and Florida. Some of the subjects of interest are structural materials, functional materials, manufacturing technology, laser systems, weapons modeling, simulation & analysis, munitions airframe, guidance, navigation and control, seeker sciences, modeling and simulation evaluation sciences, electro-optical sensing, trusted and resilient mission systems, enabling sensor devices and components, advanced space resilience technologies, and space environment.

Metrology matters Wuhan, China.

Cummins, Wuhan, China, is accepting applications for a position as a senior metrology engineer. Candidates must hold a college or equivalent degree in Physics or Engineering or related technical or scientific subjects. Some of the required skills include chemical, dimensional, mechanical, physical, optical, and electrical metrology. Some of the duties and responsibilities are to provide metrology and calibration engineering support to customers and lab staff, to designs and develop measurement processes, methods, and procedures, and to provide technical training on calibration processes and procedures.

​​Batteries science Maryland, United States.

Ion Storage Systems, College Park, Maryland, United States, is offering a placement for a scientist to be responsible for their next-generation lithium metal battery. Requirements include a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Materials Science, Physics, or related field. Also, three or more years of experience in electrochemical cells R&D. Some of the expected additional assets include experience in materials research/fabrication of lithium-ion cells, deep knowledge of materials-related analytical techniques, and a desire to mentor junior scientists and engineers. Duties include cell research and performance assessment, experimental design, optimization and improvement measurements, and lab management.

Networking & Knowledge Exchange

Thinking about maintenance issues after a strange 2020 Virtual

Sponsored by NRG Energy Services, the Power magazine is offering free access, on-demand, to an online webinar about “Maintenance Planning”. According to the organizers, this event will help attendances to more effectively plan jobs and reap the benefits of well-managed projects (as always!). Topics considered include operational commitments as a condition for completion of the work, confirmation of the availability of the necessary parts, requirements for the right lockout/tag out coordination, verification of the required level of training by the workers, and ensuring safety standards.

For materials lovers Virtual

MATERIALISM is the podcast series provided by the Department of Materials Science and Engineering of the University of Utah, USA. The initiative aims to offer an educational resource by exploring the past, present, and future of materials science. The format is structured seeking a balance between accessible explanations of fundamental concepts and in-depth discussions about advanced materials and techniques. Some of the remarkable episodes included in the current list are:

- The history of steel

- Materials that remember

- The ultimate construction material

- Recycling and the science of separation

- The science of blacksmithing

- Investing in materials startups

​​Science and engineering solutions for a planet under pressure Virtual

A map of a huge amount of answers to the Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations until 2030 shows that many of them concern with coming solutions and new ways of doing things about materials: obtaining, processing, usage, protection, reuse, recycling, and so on. To discuss such kinds of challenges, Project Drawdown and the National Council for Science & the Environment (USA) will be co-hosting the conference “Research to Action”, from January 5th to 9th 2021.

Towards the energy transition Virtual

An event composed of a series of afternoon meetings on February 18th, 19th, 25th, and 26th 2021 about energy-environment-society interactions is been organized with the support of the Royal Society (UK). Organizers plan to have a program including a multidisciplinary group of thought leaders speaking about wind, solar, and marine energy infrastructure, and its incidence on the ecosystem. Knowledge gaps, a future research map, and the policies need for a more suitable energy transition will be highlighted.

Contacts: [email protected]​

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash