The amazing 'rusting' aluminium

See this fascinating time lapsed footage of an aluminium I-beam literally corroding away before your eyes.

The common assumption is that aluminium doesn't 'rust' or is corrosion resistant. However, unlike iron which forms iron oxide (rust) which flakes off to expose fresh metal and then repeats until nothing is left, aluminium forms aluminium oxide.

Aluminium oxide is one of the hardest materials known to man and as it corrodes, aluminium inadvertently forms a protective coating that once formed, drastically reduces corrosion and protects the material from the external environment.

However, mercury is able to infiltrate this coating and essentially allows oxidation to take place continuous by stopping a new oxide layer from forming. The process is likened to the 'rusting' of iron as it causes flakes to form and fall off the material.

The video shows how just a small amount of mercury paste turns an aluminium I-Beam to dust in just a few hours.

Justin Cunningham

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Rust is iron oxide. The process of rusting is that of iron oxidisation. Rusting has nothing to do with aluminium. The general term for degeneration of metals in this way is corrosion.

Comment peter bessey, 15/08/2013

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