Corrosion is all around us. In school we were taught that when iron is exposed to oxygen, iron oxide, or rust, is formed very slowly. But when iron and oxygen come in contact with water, rust forms much quicker.
But watching rust form is like watching paint dry – only at a much slower pace. However, the science of corrosion is fascinating – mainly for how, why, and where reasons – and what companies and people do to combat this natural “disaster”.
You may already know that salt can speed up rust production, and that the combustion reaction between iron and oxygen also produces the same amount of heat as fire.
But did you know that “rust” can form in space?
Well, in space there are ultraviolet lights that can break chemical bonds between atoms. When these atoms and ultraviolet light strike metal in space, they can produce some of the same combinations of metal and oxygen atoms found in rust. Because the density of atoms in outer space is very low, it takes many years for rust to form on any object. To get a sense of just how slowly things rust in space, just look at iron meteorites and chunks of metal that have fallen to earth from outer space. Before crash-landing on earth, these bits of metal floated through the solar system for millions or even billions of years, but were still chunks of pure metal with little rust.
References: http://www.castagra.com, http://www.sciencefocus.com