Corrosion — that dreaded word. Tell anyone that they have a ‘corrosion problem’ and they are guaranteed to panic. It is an issue that we have faced for centuries and, although we have come a long way in protecting our equipment from disintegrating and falling into pieces, we are still affected by it on a daily basis.

The invention of stainless steel almost one hundred years ago increased the lifespan of many items and consequently had a huge impact on the problem. But, research into tackling corrosion could not stop with the creation of this new wonder material. We cannot use stainless steel for everything.

Current research is focusing on protection, inhibition, and healing of materials through the use of thin films, coatings, or nanovessels containing active ingredients.

This issue of Materials Today is all about where we are now in our battle against corrosion. Gerald Frankel and Narasi Sridhar discuss the recent advances in understanding localized corrosion and they use scanning tunneling imaging to support a new model that explains localization of attack, pitting, and even tries to predict where corrosion is likely to start.

Of course, predicting where the problem lies and what is happening when something corrodes is just the first step in dealing with corrosion. The next step is prevention or protection of the material. John Scully and his team have been investigating the possibility of a tunable amorphous alloy that acts as a local corrosion barrier, a sacrificial anode, and can also supply soluble ions which act as corrosion inhibitors. A three-way solution to the problem we are facing.

Protective coatings that exhibit smart self-repairing activity are gaining popularity and there is a large amount of research in this area. Daria Andreeva and Dmitry Shchukin are working on nanocontainers that can quickly release active coatings in response to changes in a coating's environment or integrity. Even more interesting is the use of several nanocontainers at once, all having different active agents, incorporated in the same matrix. Each one will target a different problem and will be triggered by a different stimulus. Pretty ingenious, don't you think?

And just when you have read through all these reviews and start to feel that things aren't really so bad, we end with an article on the sinking of the Titanic. It is a story that still fascinates us to this day. In the final article of this issue of Materials Today, Tim Foecke takes us through the investigations that have been carried out on the wreckage and pinpoints some of the possible reasons why the ill-fated ship went down and ended up in two pieces 2.5 miles below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.

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DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(08)70186-X