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Steel Galvanization: “Shocking” Oxidization Protection

Ferrous metals contain iron and include 90% of the world’s metal manufacturing. Iron is dense, strong (when mixed with carbon to become steel), plentiful, and easy to refine. These properties make it the most important metal we have for industry and building.

However, iron and many of its alloys are also highly prone to rust when exposed to air and water. Protecting against corrosion is part of designing ferrous metal. Sometimes, this protection can come from the type of alloy; stainless steels, for example, have chromium and other elements for chemical protection against corrosion. Yet these additions can change mechanical properties. They can also be expensive. Sometimes, a sealant is used, like powder coating, paint, or oil treatments.

Galvanized steel is even more common, but it’s less understood. How do you make galvanized steel? Does it spur ferrous metals to action? Does galvanized steel rust? When do you use galvanized steel vs. aluminum vs. stainless steel?

What is galvanized steel?
Galvanization is a process in which zinc coatings are applied to steel or iron, creating a barrier that protects the ferrous metal from corrosion. The layer of zinc works physically by blocking water and air from reaching the steel’s surface, and chemically by offering cathodic protection. This protection is electro-chemical … like the metaphorical “galvanization” that excites us into action. The word comes from the name of 18th century scientist Luigi Galvani, who was a pioneer in bioelectromagnetics.

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