Galvanic corrosion between aluminum and stainless steel

This blog post will explain the topic “galvanic corrosion between aluminum and stainless steel” and cover topics like how galvanic corrosion occurs between aluminum and stainless steel and frequently asked questions.

Will galvanic corrosion occur between aluminum and stainless steel?

Yes, galvanic corrosion occurs between aluminum and stainless steel.

Galvanic corrosion occurs when aluminum and stainless steel are combined. To comprehend why stainless steel and aluminum should not be used together, we must first comprehend galvanic corrosion. The transmission of electrons from one substance (anode) to another is known as galvanic corrosion (cathode).

Why stainless screws are recommended over aluminum screws?

Stainless steel screws are safe to use as fasteners since they are stronger than aluminum. Stainless steel is a carbon steel alloy that is corrosion resistant in and of itself. Stainless steel, on the other hand, reacts with aluminum, and if a stainless steel screw comes into touch with an aluminum base metal, the aluminum will rust. 

You want to use the finest fasteners available when installing solar panels to guarantee that your project remains together in severe winds and cold weather. Stainless steel screws are the suggested fastener with aluminum parts in the solar mounting sector, despite the different metals and danger of corrosion.

Why does anodized aluminum corrode when it comes into contact with steel?

From the ‘nobility’ table, it appears that aluminum and stainless steel combined pose a bi-metallic corrosion danger. The effect of relative surface area on rusting is significant in this combination.

Anodic corrosion will be accelerated if the ‘cathode’ area is larger than the ‘anode’ size. Although aluminum is anodic to stainless steel, depending on local circumstances, significant relative surface properties of aluminum to stainless steel may be tolerated.

Aluminum plates or sheets with stainless steel fasteners are usually regarded safe, however, aluminum rivets or screws holding stainless steel pieces together are a bad idea since corrosion is a real possibility.

When a strong corrosion current is generated by stainless steel, it is concentrated on a tiny region of sacrificial metal. Aluminum screws in stainless steel can rust quickly, hence they are not suitable. A stainless bolt in aluminum, on the other hand, is widely utilized, despite the possibility of corrosion of the metal immediately around the stainless.

The use of stainless steel screws and hold-down bolts to secure aluminum highway or bridge parapet guards is an example of the safe use of stainless steel and aluminum together.

Corrosion should be minimal even if there is no insulation between the metals.

The following is a list of corrosion prevention best practices:

  • When possible, make electrically separated systems or components out of a single material.
  • To avoid the undesirable area impact of a small anode and a large cathode, use a small anode and a large cathode. The more noble metal should be used for small parts or vital components like fasteners.
  • Wherever possible, use a gasket to seal the gap between different metals. It’s critical to insulate entirely if at all feasible.
  • Use care while applying coatings. Maintain the coatings, especially the one on the anodic component, in good condition.
  • If feasible, use inhibitors to reduce the harshness of the surroundings.
  • Design anodic pieces to be easily changed, or make them stronger for extended life.
  • Install a sacrificial anode, which is anodic to both elements in the galvanic contact.

How does aluminum rust?

According to thermodynamic, aluminum is an aggressive (un noble) metal with a low resistance to corrosion. However, aluminum’s exceptional corrosion resistance is attributable to the existence of a thin, compact coating of adhering al2o3 on the surface. When a new aluminum surface is produced and exposed to air or moisture, and al2o3 surface coating develops immediately.

Some substances, particularly strong acids, and alkaline solutions dissolve aluminum oxide. The metal rusts fast by uniform dissolution when the oxide coating is removed. The oxide layer is generally stable throughout a pH range of 4.0 to 9.0, although there are some outliers.

One of these instances is in settings where the surface coating is insoluble but localized corrosion is caused by weak areas in the oxide deposit. Only when aluminum is passive and coated by an oxide film, such as that created by anodizing, can local rust be detected.

The difference in corrosion potential in a local cell generated by variations in or on the metal surface causes localized corrosion, which is electrochemical in nature.

How does galvanic corrosion occur?

In a conducive environment, galvanic corrosion is caused by electrical contact with a metal substrate or a nonmetallic conductor. The cathode reaction and which elements are in touch with each other play a big role in galvanic corrosion.

The rust rate is determined by the efficacy of this cathodic reaction. Galvanic corrosion of aluminum alloys occurs most frequently when they are linked to steel or copper and subjected to moist saline conditions.

Except in highly conductive media as the slush from road deicing chemicals, saltwater, and other salty electrolytes, galvanic corrosion of aluminum is normally moderate. To guarantee ionic conduction, the contact region must be wetted with an aqueous liquid or humidity. There will be no galvanic corrosion if this is not done.

According to the galvanic series for metals, aluminum will be the anode of the galvanic cell in touch with practically all other metals and, as a result, will suffer galvanic corrosion. Because the galvanic corrosion properties of the various aluminum alloys are so similar, switching alloys will not fix the problem.

Rust = cathodic surface area / anodic surface determines the rate of dissolution between the two metals. A big anodic total area and a small cathodic surface is the best-case scenario. Galvanic corrosion is localized corrosion that occurs only in the contact zone.

Galvanic corrosion on aluminum in interaction with stainless steel is uncommon (passive). Interaction between copper, silver, brass, and various steel alloys (active and passive) and aluminum, on the other hand, can cause serious rust, thus it’s best to keep the two metals apart.

The fact that stainless steel can be active or passive, and if the atmosphere includes chloride, causes misunderstanding over whether or not galvanic corrosion occurs between aluminum and steel. The corrosion impact on metal will be significantly altered as a result of this.

In general, the closer two metals in a series are, the more suitable they are (for example, the galvanic effects will be minimal). In contrast, the larger the distance between two metals, the higher the corrosion.

Galvanic corrosion is difficult to anticipate accurately. In the case of contact with common metals, particularly steel and stainless steel, laboratory testing always yields more severe findings than what is really observed under weathering circumstances.

Galvanic connection with stainless steel works well in most cases, but if there is even a trace of chlorine in the atmosphere, galvanic corrosion will occur.

Due to the anodized coating cracking during installation, a very small area of less noble metal (the aluminum underneath) will come into touch with a very large area of the more metal substrate (the stainless steel). This will result in galvanic corrosion, which will accelerate depending on the size of the metal.

Why Can’t Stainless Steel and Aluminum Be Used Together?

Stainless steel and aluminum cannot be used together because they cause galvanic corrosion. Galvanic corrosion occurs when aluminum and stainless are combined. To comprehend why stainless steel & aluminum should not be used together, we must first comprehend galvanic corrosion. The transmission of electrons from one substance (anode) to another is known as galvanic corrosion (cathode). We need to grasp not just what galvanic corrosion is, but also the technical words that correlate with it.

All of the technical words we’ll be utilizing in this post are listed below:

  • Anode — a positive charge substance from which electrons escape.
  • Cathode — the substance of a negative charge through which electrons pass.
  • The electrolyte is a solution that assists in the electron transmission process.
  • Corrosion/corrode – Slowly destroys or weakens the metal.

How Does galvanic corrosion take place?

When two substances (an anode and a cathode) make contact with each other and a solution, galvanic corrosion takes place. Environmental elements such as moisture or precipitation can behave as electrolytes. Transfer of electrons will commence when these elements come into play. 

This transfer can proceed significantly faster depending on the degree of friction in an electrolyte. This is why seawater, a low-resistance solution, is frequently considered when deciding which product to use. As a result, it’s critical to think about what kind of material you’ll utilize in a certain situation. When operating in a maritime or saltwater environment, the type of stainless steel you choose is very important to consider.

Is There a Way to Prevent Galvanic Rust?

If you really must utilize these substances together, there are a few measures you may take.

  • Place a barrier between the 2 materials to prevent them from contacting one other. The transmission of electrons is impossible without such a link. Well, Nuts are a popular connector for separating materials that are susceptible to galvanic corrosion.
  • Make use of resources that have similar potential. Metals with similar corrosion resistance are usually safe to combine.
  • The flow of energy will not occur if only one of the components makes contact with an electrolyte.
  • If the cathode has a covering on it, the higher resistance might inhibit the transfer.
  • Before you install, think about your surroundings. Select items that are appropriate for your surroundings.
  • Cover or coat your device (totally) to prevent the electrolyte from coming into touch with the components.
  • As a barrier between both the metals, use rubber EPDM or bonding washers.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs), “galvanic corrosion between aluminum and stainless steel?”

Is there galvanic corrosion between stainless steel and aluminum?

Galvanic corrosion occurs when aluminum and stainless steel are combined. To comprehend why stainless steel and aluminum should not be used together, we must first comprehend galvanic corrosion. The transmission of electrons from one substance (anode) to another is known as galvanic corrosion (cathode).

Can you use Aluminium and stainless steel together?

Stainless steel screws in aluminum plates or strips are usually regarded as safe, however, using aluminum rivets or screws to join stainless steel pieces is a bad idea since corrosion is a real possibility. Corrosion should be minimal even if there is no shielding between the metals.

Are stainless steel screws OK with aluminum?

To guarantee that your project keeps together in heavy winds and cold weather, use the toughest screws available while constructing aluminum panels. Stainless steel fasteners are the suggested fastening for aluminum panels, despite the different metals and the danger of corrosion.

Does 304 stainless steel react with aluminum?

Because brass and aluminum are significantly more anodic than stainless steel, they will rust badly where they contact the stainless steel if they are linked by a passivated 304 stainless steel bolt.

What kind of bolts Can you use with aluminum?

“Aluminum may be used with both steel and stainless steel screws; however, we suggest that you verify with your supplier about the sort of aluminum you’re using and the environment you’ll be utilizing it in.” Also, get advice on how to prevent galvanic corrosion.”

Does anodizing aluminum prevent galvanic corrosion?

One technique to break the circuit and avoid galvanic corrosion is to use anodized metal. When metal is anodized, it generates a thick layer of aluminum oxide. This coating is a thousand times stronger than the natural oxide on metal.


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