Iron–chromium and nickel–chromium binary alloys containing sufficient quantities of chromium serve as the prototypical corrosion-resistant metals owing to the presence of a nanometre-thick protective passive oxide film1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8. Should this film be compromised by a scratch or abrasive wear, it reforms with little accompanying metal dissolution, a key criterion for good passive behaviour. This is a principal reason that stainless steels and other chromium-containing alloys are used in critical applications ranging from biomedical implants to nuclear reactor components9,10. Unravelling the compositional dependence of this electrochemical behaviour is a long-standing unanswered question in corrosion science. Herein, we develop a percolation theory of alloy passivation based on two-dimensional to three-dimensional crossover effects that accounts for selective dissolution and the quantity of metal dissolved during the initial stage of passive film formation. We validate this theory both experimentally and by kinetic Monte Carlo simulation. Our results reveal a path forward for the design of corrosion-resistant metallic alloys.
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The data used in this study are available from the corresponding author upon request.
The KMC and data analysis computer codes used in this study are available from the corresponding author upon request.
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K.S., A.A. and Y.X. acknowledge funding from the National Science Foundation under award DMR-1708459. M.L.T. and K.S. acknowledge funding in part from the Office of Naval Research, Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative programme under award N00014-20-1-2368. D.M.A. and R.C.N. were funded by NSERC (Canada) and UNENE, the University Network of Excellence in Nuclear Engineering. P.P.L. acknowledges support by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Materials Sciences and Engineering Division.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Nature Materials thanks Sannakaisa Virtanen, David Williams and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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Xie, Y., Artymowicz, D.M., Lopes, P.P. et al. A percolation theory for designing corrosion-resistant alloys. Nat. Mater. (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41563-021-00920-9