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Corrosion Rate Measurement of Copper by

Tafel Extrapolation
Chancler Vander Woude
MSE 423 - Dr. Pesic
University of Idaho
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Corrosion Rate Measurement of Copper by Tafel Extrapolation

Abstract:
The corrosion rate of copper in pH 2 deaerated nitric acid was determined by tafel
extrapolation. The anodic and cathodic tafel constants was found to be 75.818 mV and 337.17
mV respectively. The corrosion rate was found to be 14.129 µA/cm and the corrosion potential
to be 0.201 V vs SHE.

Introduction:
In this experiment, we will be examining copper corrosion in nitric acid. We will assume
that the oxygen concentration in the electrolyte solution is zero. Thus the two half cell reactions
are as follows:
2𝐻 + + 2𝑒 − = 𝐻2
𝐶𝑢 = 𝐶𝑢2+ + 2𝑒 −
We will be determining the corrosion rate of copper in nitric acid via tafel extrapolation.
Tafel Extrapolation is a method of determining corrosion rates of a given metal. Common
methods of measuring corrosion rates includes the weight loss method and linear polarization.
Compared to the weight loss method, tafel extrapolation is much faster and non-destructive.
Compared to linear polarization, tafel extrapolation allows experimentally determine the tafel
constants.
Tafel extrapolation works by polarizing the sample metal and measuring the current
density that results. When the log of the current density is linear with respect to polarization then
the material demonstrates tafel behavior. From The cathodic and anodic regions of tafel
behavior we can extrapolate to their intersection point to determine the corrosion potential and
rate.

Experimental Methods:

3 4

Vial
Working
Electrode
2 Reference
5 Electrode
Counter

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Figure 1: Apparatus for performing tafel extrapolation
The apparatus shown in figure 1 was used. Polished copper was used as the working
electrode, which was affixed to the vial via gasket which exposed a fixed area to the electrolyte.
A silver/silver chloride electrode is used as the reference electrode. A graphite electrode is used
as the counter electrode. An aqueous solution of pH 2 nitric acid is used as the electrolyte.
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Corrosion Rate Measurement of Copper by Tafel Extrapolation

The sample was polarized from -250 mV to 250 mV and the corresponding currents
measured and recorded. The sample area exposed is 0.71 cm2.

Results:
See appendix 1 for chart of Polarization vs current density

We found the anodic and cathodic tafel constants to be 75.818 mV and 337.17 mV
respectively. Using software analysis we determined the corrosion rate to be 14.129 µA/cm and
the corrosion potential to be -0.02125 V vs SSC or 0.201 V vs SHE.

Discussion:
Accurate data from a tafel extrapolation requires at least one decade of lineality. 1 The
longest portion of lineality in the observed polarization curves is approximately half a decade.
Thus the accuracy of our results is not very good. At higher current densities ohmic resistance
and concentration polarization, the local decrease in concentration of hydrogen ions near the
surface of the electrode, can have significant effects. This likely distorted the polarization curve
at significant distances from the open circuit potential, contributing significant amounts of error.
In addition, surface conditions like buildup of corrosion products, gas bubble formation or
improper polishing may have caused error.

Conclusion:
The polarization curve of copper in deaerated pH 2 nitric acid aqueous solution was
determined for a range of ±250 mV from the open circuit potential. The corrosion rate and
potential was determined from this data using tafel extrapolation. The polarization curves
demonstrated unsatisfactory amounts of tafel behavior, likely as a result of ohmic resistance or
concentration polarization. This indicates significant error. Future experiments could be
improved by finding the corrosion rates of multiple metals..
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Corrosion Rate Measurement of Copper by Tafel Extrapolation

References:
1. Jones, Denny Principles and Prevention of Corrosion, 2nd Edition. Prentice-Hall Inc, 1996; pp
144