Oxidation is the reaction of metal and oxygen. If the oxide formed is continuous and effective in separating the alloy from the atmosphere, the oxide is protective. However, if the oxide fails to act as a separator, problems with corrosion occur.

Oxidation in air

When an alloy is heated in air, an oxide layer forms on its surface. This layer can consist of oxides of iron, chromium and other elements, depending on the composition of the material.

Up to a certain temperature, known as the scaling temperature or maximum service temperature, the oxide layer is continuous and dense, and protects the underlying material from high-temperature corrosion attack. Above the scaling temperature the layer tends to crack and will, therefore, lose its protective capacity. The material will then corrode rapidly. Rapid changes in temperature will accelerate the corrosion attack.

Effect of alloying elements

Increased contents of chromium (Cr), silicon (Si) and aluminium (Al) increase the resistance to oxidation. The addition of rare earth metals and reactive elements such as titanium (Ti), zirconium (Zr) and yttrium (Y) has a highly positive effect on oxidation resistance.

Oxidation in the presence of water vapor or steam

Material exposed to pure steam will also undergo oxidation because oxygen is present in the form of H2O. As a rule, steam produces faster oxidation than air. Oxide layers formed in steam are more iron-rich and porous, and therefore give inferior protection. Air with high water content will similarly cause more rapid oxidation.

The resistance to oxidation in steam increases with the chromium (Cr) content of the steel. Silicon (Si) and aluminium (Al) also have positive effects.

Grades with high resistance to oxidation

The following grades have very high or excellent resistance to oxidation:

  • Sandvik 4C54
  • Sandvik 253 MA*
  • Sandvik 353 MA*
  • Sandvik 7RE10
  • Sanicro 31HT
  • Sanicro 70
  • Sandvik APMT

Material datasheets for Sandvik grades

Facts in brief about oxidation

  • Oxidation is the reaction between the metal and oxygen (either as O2 or H2O)
  • Oxidation can be either beneficial or detrimental, depending on the properties of the oxide layer that forms in the reaction
  • Oxides of chromium, silicon and aluminium are protective

* 253 MA and 353 MA are trademarks owned by Outokumpu OY