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Iron Contamination Test

Home / Services & Industries / Testing Services

Revealing Iron oxides on the steel surfaces

Why is there a need for Iron Contamination on stainless steel?

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Iron contamination occurs when there is a deposit on the iron surface of stainless steel. This typically is caused by abrasion or scratching the stainless steel by iron or carbon steel during fabrication or handling. Iron residue might get transplanted onto stainless steel when the equipment used to process one type of material may be used for the other without adequately cleaning between batches.

In most cases, the free iron on the stainless steel surface will be readily oxidised in environments where the stainless steel alloy should be relatively immune to any corrosive attack. The oxidation of iron on the stainless steel surface will result in the accumulation of rust stains that will indicate that the stainless steel is being attacked.

These plain iron or steel particles can disrupt the protective oxide layer of a stainless steel workpiece by ruining its corrosion resistance so that it starts to rust.

Familiar sources of iron contamination include:

  • Stainless steel coming into contact with any other steel or iron materials
  • Tools and parts previously used on steel or iron
  • Environment and atmosphere – the area the stainless steel is kept in, including the air, water or other chemicals used to clean the surface

 

Finished products that have been coated but in an environment where iron is readily available

The purpose of the copper sulfate test is to determine the presence of free iron which is usually induced onto the surface of a part during fabrication with steel components.

It is a visual method of determining the existence of free iron in specifically stainless steel. In many cases, the copper sulfate test is used as a pass/fail examination of a passivation process on a part or stock material.

It can also be used as a test to determine if passivation is necessary in the first place.

Type of Iron contamination tests

1) Ferroxyl Test – Detecting Free Iron

Free iron cannot be seen on the surfaces of contaminated parts. However, free iron particles left behind after welding can lead to the formation of iron ions in an aqueous solution. These particles are then able to cause local damage to the passive layer.

The ferroxyl test can show free iron on the stainless steel surface by converting it into a visible form. The ferroxyl test can show free iron on the stainless steel surface.

The test aims to check the integrity of the passive layer on the stainless steel surface and guarantee that free iron and (to a limited extent) Iron oxide is absent.

 

*Common Test Methods (To be written by the testing team)

– ASTM A380 / A380M (2017 Edition) Clause 7.3.4

2) Copper Sulphate Test – Surface detection for passivation

The copper sulfate test aims to determine the presence of free iron, which is usually induced onto the surface of a part during fabrication with steel components. The test principle is based on an oxidation-reduction reaction that causes the dissolved copper ions to deposit or plate out onto the locations of free iron particles. It is a visual method of determining the existence of free iron, specifically stainless steel. In many cases, the copper sulfate test is used as a go/no-go examination of a passivation process on a part or stock material. Still, it can also be used as a test to determine if passivation is necessary in the first place.

Passivation is a treatment method to protect the metal from corroding by making the material “passive” to the surrounding environment. However, it encourages corrosion to occur. A thin layer of a new non-reactive chemical will appear on the surface, which is less likely to react with air and cause corrosion chemically.

 

*Common Test Methods (To be written by the testing team)

– ASTM A380 / A380M (2017 Edition) Clause 7.2.5.3

Application of Iron Contamination Test :

To test the effectiveness of passivation

Visual Inspection

To check for embedded iron on austenitic stainless steel

To test the effectiveness of passivation

Visual Inspection

To check for embedded iron on austenitic stainless steel

Case Study :

Client Introduction:

Oil & Gas

Problem:

Most time, this may seem like a quick and easy test. But sometimes, the client doesn’t understand how big of a problem this test will give a failure result.

Solution:

We’ll always give a rundown of how the iron contamination tests work and provide a preview of how it reacts with different metals – stainless steel and duplex stainless steel. We give them a live test on samples we’ve manufactured with a different stainless-steel grade.

Additionally, sometimes it’s not an internal issue and also understands the situation whereby there would be external factors affecting the test results – environment of the location of the sample.

Review:

– Client appreciates the in-depth showcase of the different types of stainless-steel samples

– Good explanation foreseeing the results as it’ll convince their witnesses/end users.

Talk to us today

Our expert testing team can confirm passivation using the Copper sulphate test and detect free iron with the Ferroxyl test. For more information on our iron contamination test, call us or send us an enquiry today.

process timeline

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