THE chemist regards magnesium as a highly reactive metal for such reasons as the inflammability of its powder or foil in air, its active displacement of hydrogen gas from many aqueous chloride solutions, and its position near the reactive end of the electrode‐potential series. All these suggest that the metal would be unsuitable for constructional engineering. Yet engineers use alloys, rich in magnesium, up to 98 per cent of the metal, for an increasing number of services, although the alloying elements do not, as a rule, greatly cut down, and may even increase, the corrosion rate. Their industrial use is possible because the liability to corrode, reckoned over a reasonably prolonged period, is not a definite property of a metal such as conductivity, which is subject only to relatively small changes with alteration of environment, but is highly specific to metal‐liquid and metal‐gas systems. Moreover, these systems may undergo important changes with time owing to the intervention of films of corrosion products, and the rate of attack may be governed by the physical characteristics of these films, which will vary with the adjacent liquid and gases. Thus, in stagnant caustic alkalies magnesium may be reckoned as almost incorrodible because of the intervention of a film of hydroxide of the self‐healing type which, in these conditions, is highly impervious to magnesiumions; but in the presence of alkali chlorides the corrosion product is physically different and rapid corrosion occurs. Many dilute acids attack magnesium rapidly, but hydrofluoric acid scarcely at all, no doubt owing to the formation of a protective film of fluoride.
Bengough, G.D. and Whitby, L. (1934), "The Corrosion of Magnesium Alloys: An Important Series of Tests on Atmospheric and Sea‐Water Corrosion and Methods of Protection", Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 7-12. https://doi.org/10.1108/eb029761
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