Materials and Structures

, 52:2 | Cite as

Propagation of reinforcement corrosion: principles, testing and modelling

  • Carmen AndradeEmail author
50 years of Materials and Structures
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. 50 years of Materials and Structures


Reinforcement corrosion is the risk most frequently cited to justify concrete durability research. The number of studies specifically devoted to corrosion propagation, once the object of most specialised papers, has declined substantially in recent years, whilst the number addressing initiation, particularly where induced by chlorides, has risen sharply. This article briefly describes the characteristics of steel corrosion in concrete that need to be stressed to dispel certain misconceptions, such as the belief that the corrosion zone is a pure anode. That is in fact seldom the case and as the zone is also affected by microcells, galvanic corrosion accounts for only a fraction of the corrosion rate. The role of oxygen in initiating corrosion, the scant amount required and why corrosion can progress in its absence are also discussed. Another feature addressed is the dependence of the chloride threshold on medium pH and the buffering capacity of the cement, since corrosion begins with acidification. Those general notions are followed by a review of the techniques for measuring corrosion, in particular polarisation resistance, which has proved to be imperative for establishing the processes involved. The inability to ascertain the area affected when an electrical signal is applied to large-scale elements is described, along with the concomitant need to use a guard ring to confine the current or deploy the potential attenuation method. The reason that measurement with contactless inductive techniques is not yet possible (because the area affected cannot be determined) is discussed. The method for integrating corrosion rate over time to find cumulative corrosion, Pcorr, is explained, together with its use to formulate the mathematical expressions for the propagation period. The article concludes with three examples of how to use corrosion rate to assess cathodic protection, new low-clinker cements or determine the chloride threshold with an integral accelerated service life method.


Reinforcement corrosion Oxygen supply Microcells Corrosion rate Propagation period 



The author acknowledges the collaboration of all those contributed to the work presented here. The original research reported in this review paper was supported by the following grants: public Agencies belonging to the several Ministries of Research of Spain, the European Commission (BRITE-EURAM and Marie-Curie -Nanocem grant) and the private firm GEOCISA (corrosion-rate meter). Also would like to mention Prof. José Calleja who had the vision to start the study of reinforcement corrosion from the end of 1960’s in the Institute of Construction Sciences of Spain.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that she has no conflict of interest.


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© RILEM 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Centre for Numerical Methods in EngineeringCIMNE- UPC-SpainBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.International Centre for Numerical Methods in EngineeringCIMNE- UPC-SpainMadridSpain

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