Acid precipitation effects on steel structures

Written by nicholas waugh
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  • Introduction

    Acid precipitation effects on steel structures

    Acid precipitation, better known as acid rain, forms when water, oxygen and other chemicals falling in the air mix with carbon dioxide, monoxide and other natural gases that exist in the atmosphere. The combination then forms acid rain. Acid rain damages trees, plants and even steel structures. Carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere by burning coal, oil and natural gas. Carbon monoxide is sent into the air by burning gasoline and wood.

    Acid precipitation is know for its high levels of acid. (Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

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    Causes of Acid Rain

    Acid precipitation normally falls where there is a high pollution of air: volcanoes, power plants, etc. It can also be found in areas that have many cars, electric utilities and any other sources that burn fuel. Carbon steel is very susceptible to acid precipitation. When the acidic precipitation lands on buildings and other steel structures, it forms crystals that break off pieces of the structure and corrosion begins. It causes buildings to corrode from leftover precipitation particles on the steel.

    Erupting volcanoes release chemicals that can cause acid rain. (NA/ Images)

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    Silver Bridge Collapse

    Bridges are some of the biggest steel structures in the world that are affected by acid rain. In 1967, the Silver Bridge that crossed over the Ohio River collapsed and killed about 46 people. After investigation, the cause of the collapse was said to be faulty equipment and corrosion due to acid rain. The Silver Bridge was constructed with newly made carbon steel because it would enable the bridge to support a lot of weight. Bridges need normal maintenance because they can get rusted from the exposure of saltwater and acid rain. Acid rain caused the Silver Bridge to rust and corrode.

    Corrosion from acid precipitation is said to have been a factor of the collapse. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

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    Steel Structured Buildings

    Steel buildings become corroded from the leftover acid precipitation. Many steel buildings also lose their strength and become weaker from the effects of acid rain. After years of acid precipitation, buildings are dissolving from the effects of acid. Metals are being affected by the rain, but steel structures are suffering much more. Building steel structures take a long period of time to finish, and the downside is that they are easily harmed by nature's elements such as acid rain. Therefore, the economy is burdened with having to use a lot of money to keep steel structures maintained.

    Acid precipitation slowly eats away at metal and steel structures. (Kim Steele/Photodisc/Getty Images)

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    Automotive Effects

    In some cases, metal and steel are used interchangeably. Acid rain causes metal to rust and corrode. Some everyday sources of transportation that are affected by acid rain are trains, buses and cars. Each means of transportation face the possibility of rust and corrosion. Each travelling resource is composed of metal, iron and steel objects that make them steel structures and makes them easily immersed in rust. The colours of cars will alter because of acid rain. A car that is dark blue could easily fade in colour because of acid precipitation.

    Rust and discolouration are two effects of acid rain on automotives. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

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