The costly, ongoing replacement of corroded infrastructure across Australia may soon be a thing of the past with new research underway at the University of Newcastle.
The University of Newcastl's Professor Rob Melchers has secured $1.1 million over five years from the Australian Research Council (ARC) to extend his groundbreaking research into the causes of corrosion of infrastructure.
Professor Melchers said that governments and industry were facing spiralling costs with the relentless deterioration of infrastructure due to corrosion.
"A better understanding of the factors at play in the corrosion process will lead to greater accuracy in predicting the reliability and durability of infrastructure."
Rust is conventionally believed to be a chemical reaction between iron, water and oxygen. Professor Melchers' previous ARC-funded research on steel infrastructure near the sea discovered that bacteria were a major contributor to steel corrosion.
The next phase of Professor Melchers' research will investigate the potential influence of bacterial activity in inland infrastructure corrosion in industrial, agricultural, rural and alpine environments.
"With the support of the ARC, I will be able to expand my research to analyse both the potential influence of bacterial activity and its dependence on environmental conditions on inland infrastructure corrosion," Professor Melchers said.
"Through DNA analysis of the bacteria in the rust, I will be able to understand the life cycle of the rust process and the factors that allow the bacteria to thrive. Understanding the conditions under which bacteria can grow may be the key to controlling their influence on corrosion.
"As our infrastructure ages across the country, particularly in rural areas, the potential commercial gain from this research is significant. As well as savings to governments and industry, the findings could pave the way for the development of new corrosion resistant steel and related products."
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Barney Glover, said the most recent ARC funding for Professor Melchers and other researchers at Newcastle confirmed its standing as one of Australia's top 10 universities for research.
"Professor Melchers' research is an excellent example of innovation and relevance - the hallmarks of research at the University of Newcastle."
Professor Melchers was selected by the ARC to join a small group of researchers to showcase his groundbreaking research in Canberra today.