The corrosion rates of low alloy steel and carbon steel in 0.1 N NaCI were accelerated by factors of 4 to 6 when an alternating current density of 30 mA/cm2 (60 cps) was applied in dilute salt solutions purged with nitrogen. Tests with low frequency alternating anodic and cathodic current showed that both steels polarized more rapidly in the cathodic direction than in the anodic. Thus, the anodic half-cycle of AC did not have time to restore the potential to its original value after the preceding cathodic half-cycle. The result is a net cathodic polarization which accelerates or “depolarizes” the anodic metal-dissolution reaction by lowering the anodic Tafel slope. Depolarization of the anodic reaction was confirmed by polarization measurements in the presence of AC. Depolarization of the anodic reaction by AC was also observed in aerated solutions, but the corrosion rate was controlled by diffusion of dissolved oxygen, and no increase in corrosion rate was measured. Possible mechanisms of anodic depolarization are discussed.

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