Researchers from National Institute of Standards and Technology have developed a new technology that will help people detect early signs of deterioration in a building.

When water and oxygen damage iron, they leave by-products, with the two most common being goethite and hematite.

“The brown rust that forms when you leave a hammer out in the rain is mostly goethite, and when a steel reinforcing bar (rebar) corrodes inside a concrete bridge deck, that is mostly hematite,” said NIST physical chemist Dave Plusquellic. “We have shown in our new study with goethite, and our previous work with hematite, that terahertz radiation – electromagnetic waves with frequencies 10 to 100 times higher than the microwaves used to cook food – can detect both corrosion products in the early stages of formation.”

People usually assess corrosion with the physical changes on a structure like cracks in exterior bricks or displaced molding. These warning signs show that more dramatic changes are already taking place in a foundation.


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