Dr. Ronald Latanision

D.B. Robinson Distinguished Speaker Series 2012-2013

Corrosion Science, Corrosion Engineering and New Technologies


The interplay between corrosion science and corrosion engineering is integral to advances in the technologies that serve broad societal needs. The emerging interest in the use of supercritical water oxidation (SCWO) as a means of treating military and civilian wastes is an example that will be described. The coupling of laboratory testing and pilot-scale field experience is crucial in terms of the evolution of such new technologies. From energy conversion and waste treatment to transportation systems, electronic and optical communications and to the medical devices that are now and will in the future lead to ever increased quality of life for all of us, such advances depend on new and improved materials, the means to process them and an understanding of how to protect them from degradation in service.

In the above context, it is now well over 100 years since certain detrimental effects on the ductility of iron were first associated with the presence of hydrogen. Not only is hydrogen embrittlement still a major industrial problem, but it is safe to say that in a mechanistic sense we still do not know what hydrogen (but not nitrogen or oxygen, for example) does on an atomistic scale to induce this degradation. The same applies to other examples of environmentally-induced fracture: stress corrosion cracking and liquid metal embrittlement among them. The technological significance of the interaction of environments such as hydrogen, liquid metals, hot (perhaps molten) salts, etc., with materials will become of even greater consequence in the decades to come as the recovery of oil and gas from unconventional reserves, global CO2 recycling, a potential hydrogen economy, breeder reactors, space defense vehicles, etc., take on increasing importance in the ever evolving world that we inhabit.

Given all of the above, it is of concern to me that so little attention is focused on such issues in our universities today. When the contemporary engineering enterprise continues to build buildings and bridges, airframes and ships, power plants and pipelines, the institutions that should be producing the practitioners who can invent, design, manufacture, inspect and maintain contemporary or advanced engineering systems of all kinds is declining before our eyes. What concerns me is that the university research enterprise, particularly in the U.S., is overwhelmingly out of balance in terms of funding distribution and in terms of direction. The upshot of all of the above is that the intellectual infrastructure in engineering practice is declining and, so, is engineering’s capacity to serve society. I will talk about my perception of the consequences.

Download the full presentation here.


Prior to joining Exponent, Dr. Latanision was the Director of The H.H. Uhlig Corrosion Laboratory in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at M.I.T., and held joint faculty appointments in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and in the Department of Nuclear Engineering. He is now an Emeritus Professor at MIT. In addition, he is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of ASM International, NACE International, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. From 1983–1988, Dr. Latanision was the first holder of the Shell Distinguished Chair in Materials Science. He was a founder of Altran Materials Engineering Corporation, established in 1992, and led the Materials Processing Center at MIT as its Director from 1985 to 1991.

Dr. Latanision’s research interests are focused largely in the areas of materials processing and in the corrosion of metals and other materials in aqueous (ambient as well as high temperature and pressure) environments. He specializes in corrosion science and engineering with particular emphasis on materials selection for contemporary and advanced engineering systems and in failure analysis. His expertise extends to electrochemical systems and processing technologies, ranging from fuel cells and batteries to supercritical water power generation and waste destruction. Dr. Latanision’s research interests include stress corrosion cracking and hydrogen embrittlement of metals and alloys, water and ionic permeation through thin polymer films, photoelectrochemistry, and the study of aging phenomena/life prediction in engineering materials and systems. Dr. Latanision is a member of the International Corrosion Council and serves as Co-Editor-in-Chief of Corrosion Reviews, with Prof. Noam Eliaz of Tel-Aviv University. He also serves as the Editor-in-Chief of the National Academy of Engineering Quarterly, The Bridge.

Dr. Latanision has served as a science advisor to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology in Washington, D.C. He has also served as a member of the Advisory Committee to the Massachusetts Office of Science and Technology, an executive branch office created to strengthen the Commonwealth’s science and technology infrastructure with emphasis directed toward future economic growth. Dr. Latanision has served as a member of the National Materials Advisory Board of the National Research Council and now serves as a member of the NRC’s Committee on Undergraduate Science Education. He hosts the annual Siemens Westinghouse Science and Technology Competition on the MIT campus. In June of 2002, Dr. Latanision was appointed by President George W. Bush to membership on the U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, a position in which he continues to serve in the Administration of President Barack Obama.

Dr. R. M. Latanision

Dr. R. M. Latanision

Director (Emeritus), The H.H. Uhlig Corrosion Laboratory, MIT and
Corporate Vice President, Exponent, Inc.
Website: www.exponent.com

Date and time:

(Thursday) September 13, 2012 at 3:30pm


Engineering Teaching and Learning Complex (ETLC) 1-001