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Measuring corrosion… before it is too late…


DIY box construction by Raf and sensor Wikke
DIY box construction by Raf and sensor Wikke

Promises, promises - stuck inside a mystery like a ship in a bottle.That’s how the Belgian band Soulsister described them in 1992. And promises are what you offer in return for project money. So we did in the SOCORRO project: a software application (under construction) to calculate the risk that your installation rusts down to the ground, a method to calculate how much money you save by taking care of your rusty pipes and walls, and, last but not least, 10 locations where we collect data to feed into the other two. Practical, tangible demonstrations of how you can measure and predict corrosion


We had some nice ideas where to build these demonstrations. One in the Port of Ostend and one in the Port of Vlissingen, two locations where our group (Antwerp Maritime Academy) has been conducting corrosion experiments for years now. Two in the ports of Shoreham and Newhaven, under the watchful gaze of the team in Brighton. Another in the middle of the North Sea (at an experimental marine station before the Ostend shores). One in an industrial complex in Antwerp, one in a drinking water pipeline in the area of Ghent, two in wastewater pipelines, one in the water at Den Helder in the Netherlands… We are even measuring corrosion on board of a giant gas tanker now!

And we were certain we would have those demonstration sites up and running in no time. Apparently, there is a special clause that has been added to Murphy’s Law, pertaining to overzealous scientists – the more you are certain, the more the universe slows you down. With contagious diseases, industrial supply lines being cut, and if all else fails, then Russia decides to make a stroll into the East of Ukraine. Suffice to say, after two years, we have half of our demonstrations up and running. Finally.


Anyway. At each of our locations, we install a sensor to measure corrosion for three metal types. For the experts: we used three types that are common in industrial and maritime constructions. Stainless steel 316L, a low tensile carbon steel (used for shipbuilding and sheet piles in ports) and a carbon steel that is more robust and is being used for industrial construction work. To measure the corrosion of these steels, we rely on the sensors of the Dutch company CCube.


The corrosion sensors of CCube
The corrosion sensors of CCube
The Eijkelkamp Scuba sensor goes into the water at the Calamiteitensteiger in Vlissingen, equipped with the antifouling copper mesh
The Eijkelkamp Scuba sensor goes into the water at the Calamiteitensteiger in Vlissingen, equipped with the antifouling copper mesh

At the same time, we analyse the water around those sensors: every 30 minutes, we measure its temperature, salt content, oxygen concentration, pH, and more. That is the job of the Scuba probes from the company Eijkelkamp, again from the Netherlands. To avoid that this sensor unit becomes a local mussel and oyster bank, we fitted it with a copper mesh around the sensitive sensor area. Both probes are linked to a central hub, where the sensitive electronics are housed and protected from the aggressive aqueous environments where we do our experiments. This is a box, developed at home (thanks, Elefterios) and vetted for use in industrial environments, equipped with electric breakers and power slots, a modem to transfer the measurements to the almighty Cloud.

And on one of those heat-ridden, sun-soaked days in the summer of 2022, the sensors finally went down into the water in Vlissingen and Ostend. One more promise completed.



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