The deterioration of metal by chemical or electrochemical reaction resulting from exposure to weathering, moisture, chemicals or other agents or media.
Corrosion is a natural process, which converts a refined metal to a more chemically-stable form, such as its oxide, hydroxide, or sulfide. It is the gradual destruction of materials (usually metals) by chemical and/or electrochemical reaction with their environment. Corrosion engineering is the field dedicated to controlling and stopping corrosion.
In the most common use of the word, this means electrochemical oxidation of metal in reaction with an oxidant such as oxygen or sulfates. Rusting, the formation of iron oxides, is a well-known example of electrochemical corrosion. This type of damage typically produces oxide(s) or salt(s) of the original metal, and results in a distinctive orange colouration. Corrosion can also occur in materials other than metals, such as ceramics or polymers, although in this context, the term "degradation" is more common. Corrosion degrades the useful properties of materials and structures including strength, appearance and permeability to liquids and gases.
Many structural alloys corrode merely from exposure to moisture in air, but the process can be strongly affected by exposure to certain substances. Corrosion can be concentrated locally to form a pit or crack, or it can extend across a wide area more or less uniformly corroding the surface. Because corrosion is a diffusion-controlled process, it occurs on exposed surfaces. As a result, methods to reduce the activity of the exposed surface, such as passivation and chromate conversion, can increase a material's corrosion resistance. However, some corrosion mechanisms are less visible and less predictable.