Degradation of structural materials in sectors such as nuclear fission, wind energy and transport, present a serious threat to the UK’s 2050 net zero target. The financial impact of corrosion globally - just one degradation mechanism - has been estimated at $2.5tn, or 3.4 per cent of the world’s GDP. Significant savings and societal benefits can therefore be achieved through better understanding and effective management of the issue, which often passes under the radar.
In a recent report, the Manchester-based Royce Institute identified key areas of concern, highlighting the need for investment over the coming years. The study identified three common cross-sector degradation mechanisms – corrosion, fatigue and creep – and highlighted the rising interactions between them which are largely the result of structural materials operating under increasingly challenging conditions such as higher temperatures and harsher environments.
According to Royce, a roadmap is required in order to prioritise materials technologies that can tackle these issues and boost the UK’s chances of hitting its 2050 net zero target, with funding linked to key dates when those technologies are expected to come online. Alongside high-level strategic direction of R&D efforts, the challenge will also require strong collaboration between government, industry and academia.
“To tackle the degradation challenge, collaboration between governing bodies, UK Research and Innovation, major industry players, the supply chain, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and academia, is now essential,” said Bill Hedges, president of the Institute of Corrosion and project champion for the Royce study.
“At the moment funding calls continue to encourage an isolated approach to investigating degradation mechanisms and this report recommends that only with a significant change in leadership and policy will the obvious opportunities for transformational change be grasped and ultimately realised.”