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Corrosion Research Teamwork Crosses Oceans

An international, all-women research team is making strides in the development of corrosion-resistant materials for biomedical implants and more.

Interdisciplinary and complementary work is essential for any engineering work – more so if it is a totally feminine group! Prof. Alicia Duran (ICV, Madrid, Spain) and Prof. Silvia Cere (INTEMA, Mar del Plata, Argentina) lead an international research group with the aim of enhancing metallic substrates to prevent, slow, and control corrosion. The group is entirely formed by women from a variety of academic backgrounds, and each one contributes her expertise and unique method of problem solving. The team is involved in chemistry, physics, biology, and engineering.

We began to work together in 1996. Up to 11 Iberoamerican countries were involved with different subjects related to glass; one of the main objectives consisted of research on protection of metal substrates. Developing countries like Argentina need the support of a consolidated one like Spain, not only for the budget for science but also the relationship with engineering companies and professionals in the corrosion area. When the initial project finished, we remained doing science “no matter what” in the area of corrosion and metal protection, because with or without financial support, it was important to maintain the teamwork and opportunities for collaboration.

Protection and functionalization of metallic materials with the primary aim to prevent or reduce corrosion was the main topic of our studies from the beginning. The INTEMA group has extensive experience in engineering of metals working in eco-friendly coatings, corrosion materials for the oil and gas industry, and exploring applications for the surface modification of metals. In this context, the group worked in surface modification of permanent implants to enhance osseointegration (Ti alloys, Zr, ZrNb, stainless steel, CrCoMo) and on temporary alloys (Mg alloys) to avoid second surgery, and formed an interdisciplinary team from developing the material to the in vivo test.

On the other hand, the experience and research interests of GlaSS research group of ICV (CSIC) are focused in the design, processing, and characterization of sol-gel materials, in the form of coatings, membranes, and/or bulk. This line includes as priority issue the production of protective, anticorrosive, and functional coatings on metal substrates and light alloys (for aerospace applications), as well as nanostructured layers with corrosion inhibitors and bioactivation of metal alloys for prostheses. In 1990, this group published the first article in the literature describing the corrosion protection of metals through sol-gel coatings (“Protective Glass Coatings on Metallic Substrates”).

As the two groups met, both with different experiences but with a single purpose, great progress has been reached in the subject. Our common work is important for developing science and technology of high quality and with a clear social aim and projection. Since 2001, more than 15 common papers have been published, collaborating in more than 7 Ph.D. thesis, with students from Argentina, Spain, and Colombia. Our most recent collaboration focuses on the control of the corrosion rate of Mg alloys as biodegradable implants through the deposition of sol-gel coatings; this work has important applications that could lengthen and improve quality of life for patients with biomedical implants. We are collaborating with physicians, veterinarians, and biologists to study these materials in vitro and in vivo.

Another current topic focusing the common interest of both groups is the corrosion protection of light alloys (Al and Mg) for multiple applications from aeronautics to the automotive industry.

The “Corrosion Crossing Oceans” team is always looking for the best way to promote engineering in materials science and corrosion by female professionals, encouraging young scientists and students to continue this legacy of cooperation. We have built an interdisciplinary collaboration between areas and countries, between the experts and the new students (since they are the factory of ideas), and between the scientists and the industrial sectors (because they have the real corrosion problems or questions to be solved).

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