Technical Resources

Pitting Corrosion

What is pitting corrosion and how does it happen?

Pitting corrosion is in itself a corrosion mechanism, but is also a form of corrosion often associated with other types of corrosion mechanisms. It is characterised by a highly localised loss of metal. In the extreme case, it can appear as a deep, tiny hole in an otherwise unaffected surface. The adjacent figure illustrates the nature of pitting and other forms of corrosion.

The initiation of a pit is associated with the breakdown of the protective film on the metal surface. In cases where pit depths increase rapidly, the environment is usually such that no repair or re-passivation of the protective layer can be accomplished. For other instances where many shallow pits form, the environment is usually one where re-passivation of the damaged film can be made, but initiation of new sites is occurring on a regular basis.

The localised nature of pitting attack can be associated with component geometry, the mechanics of the corrosion process, or with imperfections in the material itself. The growth of pits, once initiated, is closely related to another corrosion mechanism, crevice corrosion.

AlloyPRE
304L19.5
316L23.5
220535.0

In stainless and Nickel alloys, Chloride ions are particularly efficient at breaking down the passive protective film. Experience has shown that alloy additions of Chromium and Molybdenum are particularly beneficial in increasing resistance to pitting attack.

ZERON® 100AL-6XN®Alloy 625
40.143.249.5

Laboratory testing has shown a correlation that has been identified as the Pitting Resistance Equivalent (PRE) where PRE = %Cr + 3.3 * %Mo + 16 * %N. Increasing resistance to pitting (and crevice corrosion) is found as the PRE increases. Typical PRE’s for several alloys are shown in the table.

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