A new weapon in the arms race against corrosion that occurs in harsh chloride environments is under development, and it's the product of a new manufacturing process for ordinary or "black" steel. Irvine, Calif.-based MMFX Steel Corp. is gearing up to introduce a new steel product designed to provide engineers with improved structural design options, increase structural integrity, increase the life cycle of structures, and reduce construction and maintenance costs. Testing has indicated improved corrosion resistance and strength compared with black steel.

Dr. Gareth Thomas, professor emeritus in the Department of Materials Science at the University of California Berkeley, developed the new steel technology. According to Dr. Thomas, his approach to the microstructure of the new steel slows the corrosive process by removing most of the microstructural components that cause corrosion while actually improving the mechanical properties of the steel.

Production of the steel is cost-effective, according to LeRoy C. Prichard, MMFX vice president of steel operations and former executive vice president of Nucor, the country's most profitable steel company. Prichard brought with him the production concept of the "mini-mill." Smaller in scale than conventional integrated mills and geographically distributed throughout the country, mini-mills facilitate the production of steel closer to where it will be used, decreasing transportation costs.

David Trejo, Ph.D., assistant professor of civil engineering at Texas A&M University, recently completed both accelerated and long-term corrosion testing on both the new steel and black steel, with positive results for the new steel.

Kenneth Vecchio, Ph.D., professor of material science at the University of California San Diego, adds, "The strength testing I have done found that the new steel is two times as strong as standard rebar material."

Several state DOTs and the U.S. Navy have shown interest in using this new technology.