October 20, 2009 — John R. Scully, the Charles Henderson Professor in the Department of Materials Science in the University of Virginia's School of Engineering and Applied Science, recently received the H.H. Uhlig Award presented by the Electrochemical Society's Corrosion Division.
The award was established in 1972 to recognize excellence in corrosion research and the exceptional technical contributions of individuals in the field of corrosion science.
The Electrochemical Society is an international, nonprofit organization that works to promote the practice and knowledge of electrochemistry, as well as research in the field.
Scully is a co-director of the University's Center for Electrochemical Science and Engineering, the largest research center in the Engineering School. The center incorporates faculty from a variety of disciplines in engineering and science departments in the College of Arts & Sciences and is considered a national and international leader in the field of electrochemistry. The center is focused on improving the performance of engineering materials and coatings through limiting corrosion.
"Our research at the center is focused on inventing new materials, determining what makes old materials sick and also trying to predict the behavior of different materials through exposure to a variety of environments," Scully said. "This kind of work heavily depends on the prognosis we perform that determines what specifically causes materials to fail."
Corrosion is extremely destructive to metals and alloys that serve as the structural materials for bridges, buildings and roads as well as functional materials. This is a major safety and financial burden on the U.S. economy that sums up to an estimated $350 billion a year in the United States alone, according to Scully. Additionally, corrosion impacts electrical power generation, transportation, national defense and various other industries.
The center also is involved in researching various other electrochemical processes, which make up over 10 percent of the American chemical process industry. These operations support the purification of refining metals, electrolytic production of commodity chemicals, conversion of chemical energy to electrical energy in fuel cells and batteries, materials for microelectronic devices and the ability of electrodes to identify and evaluate structural damage.
"The corrosion process threatens our energy independence, the availability of clean water, the containment of nuclear waste and the success of modern health care technology, such as metal human implants," Scully said. "Additionally corrosion affects photovoltaics and batteries, specifically the batter charge-discharge process essential to the design of hybrid vehicles. There are certain things in our society that we need now that will not be available without addressing corrosion problems."