19 Sep /18


Corrosive – Word of the day – EVS Translations
Corrosive – Word of the day – EVS Translations

There is the kind of waste that nobody likes, such as buying a cheap appliance and having to replace it sooner because of low build quality. Beyond that cheap electric can opener that Uncle Phil got you last Christmas, in the macroeconomic sense, doing budget-minded projects on the cheap can cause a lot of issues with long-run costs, structural integrity, and safety, and the reason why has a lot to do with today’s word.

The term corrosive comes to us from the Old French corrosif, which was derived from the Latin term corrodere, meaning ‘to gnaw or wear away’. First used by Geoffrey Chaucer in The Canon’s Yeoman’s Prologue and Tale, part of The Canterbury Tales (c1386), writing that: “Of waters corrosive, and of limaile”, the term was initially used to denote an acidic eating away or consuming in a chemical reaction.

From a generalised corrosive nature, the word soon evolved into a biologic form, being used to represent both diseases and medicinal agents by the surgeon Lanfranc of Milan in his work, Science of Chirgurie (Surgery) c1400.

Rather ironically, the use with which we have become most familiar with the term comes from 2 specific works: George Ripley’s 1471 work, The Compound of Alchemy, which discusses a chemical action and states that an object was “made oil with corrosives”, and Richard Mulcaster’s Positions (1581), which, denoting a general destructive and consuming waste, mentions a “unlawful and corrosive maintenance”.

While we have since learned that it is far from alchemy, there are some interesting corrosive facts that would make any alchemist’s ears perk up. Most corrosion occurs on the atomic and molecular level, with NASA estimating that 90% of all corrosion is caused by oxidation;  moreover, except for gold and platinum (too expensive for a building material), all metals will eventually corrode.

With reference to Mulcaster, there is no denying the destruction caused by corrosion. With an estimated direct and indirect cost of corrosion of 6.2% of GDP, the National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE) estimated in 2016 that corrosion would cost the US USD 1.1 trillion in 2016 alone. Internationally, the number swells to more than USD 2.5 trillion, which equates to 3.4% of global GDP.

Virtually no aspect involving industry or metals is safe from corrosive effects, but those effects can be marginally contained. From plumbing work to building materials to oil and gas pipelines, corrosion will wear down an item and increase costs; however, using best practices, corrosive resistant technologies and materials, and reviewing both training and regulations, industries could potentially reduce corrosive-related costs by up to 30%. With corrosion costs in oil and gas production estimated at almost USD 1.4 billion annually, the saving are more than substantial. Essentially, it is going to break down eventually, but that doesn’t mean you have to waste more money along the way.