Information on debonding and corrosion

The reason for the debonding of metal connectors with chloroprene rubber or polyurethane heads installed in a cathodically protected system is the natural development of hydroxide. Hydroxide is generated on the cathode when the polarity tension exceeds 400 mV (Cu/CuSo4) and the aqueous environment is of an alkaline character.

The electro-chemical process of hydroxide
O2 + 2H2O + 4e > 4OH-

Hydroxide causes a local increase in the pH value and paint/primer is generally broken down in highly alkaline environments. When an electrical connection has been made between the cathode and the anode, the usual electrochemical cathodic process begins; the generation of hydroxide - this is where the debonding begins.

The natural electrochemical sub-process of water disassociation when in contact with cathodic protection creates gas bubbles of hydroxide or hydrogen. At this stage it is almost impossible to detect the debonding of the polymer tongue from the metal surface. The cathodic sub-process will now be established under the surface of polymers and a total debonding is impending.

The velocity of the de-bonding depends on the following conditions

  • Blend potential (> -400 mV will induce the generation of hydroxide)
  • Primer dielectric properties
  • Medium alkalinity (a high level of alkalinity increases the number of reactive products)
  • Medium temperature (a high temperature means a speedy reaction time and will often be able to neutralise a lower level of oxygen)
  • Current intensity (a high current intensity increases the quantity of developed hydroxide)

In relation to the phenomenon of debonding, there is a considerable difference between a corrosion-resistant steel alloy and a brass alloy. Corrosion-resistant alloys such as stainless steel AISI 304 - 18/8, AISI 316 - 18/12/2.5, AISI 310 - 24/20, smo254 achieve their rust resistance by means of an alloy characteristic film. This oxide alloy, which is only a few Ångström thick, is formed naturally when the metal surface comes into contact with oxygen or products rich in oxygen. Brass, which consists of copper (primary constituent) and zinc, is naturally resistant to seawater. The oxide film of the copper is somewhat thicker and bears a faint resemblance to ordinary copper oxide (CuOH) in its structure and size. The copper oxide is green and familiar to most.

If rust-resistant alloys are applied as a connecting material, the aforementioned oxide film must be removed before applying the primer. In those areas where the natural oxide film encounters a primed/treated surface, it may cause issues of interference. Specifically, the corrosion-resistant material will attempt to form its natural oxide film under the primer. In this way, the oxide film can lift off the primer, which is the same condition that can be observed in ordinary corrosion of iron constructions. When the electrolyte comes into contact with the rust-resistant surface as described above, the rust-resistant alloy will start to form its natural oxide film assuming that the oxide or oxidant elements are available. The result will be a quick debonding caused by the natural oxide formation of the rust-resistant exposed surface.

The application of a more seawater resistant material than (for example) stainless steel AISI 316 will result in a more stable oxide formation.

Cathodic protection and galvanic conditions will advance and stabilise the formation of the protecting oxide film. This relation is not observed on brass connectors. Brass is (naturally) sufficiently electronegative to seawater, and so does not form an oxide film as with the rust-resistant alloys. Thus, brass alloys do not have the same secondary reaction pattern that characterises the
corrosion-proof alloys. Consequently, oxidation of brass does not advance the debonding process.