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Caustic embrittlement - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Caustic embrittlement
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Caustic embrittlement is the phenomenon in which the material of a boiler becomes brittle due to the
accumulation of caustic substances.[1]

1 Cause
2 Prevention
3 References
4 Further reading

As water evaporates in the boiler, the concentration of sodium carbonate
increases in the boiler. Sodium carbonate is used in softening of water by
lime soda process, due to this some sodium carbonate maybe left behind
in the water. As the concentration of sodium carbonate increases, it
undergoes hydrolysis to form sodium hydroxide.
Na2CO3 + H2O 2NaOH + CO2
The presence of sodium hydroxide makes the water alkaline. This
alkaline water enters minute cracks present in the inner walls of the boiler
by capillary action.[2] Inside the cracks, the water evaporates and
amount of hydroxide keeps on increasing progressively. This sodium
hydroxide attacks the surrounding material and the dissolves the iron of
the boiler as sodium ferrate. This causes embrittlement of boiler parts like
rivets, bends and joints, which are under stress.

A tube damaged by caustic

embrittlement. White caustic deposits
can be seen inside.

This can be prevented by using sodium phosphate instead of sodium carbonate as softening reagents. Adding tannin
or lignin to boiler water blocks the hair-line cracks and prevents infiltration of NaOH into these areas.[1] Adding
Na2SO4 to boiler water also blocks the hair-line cracks.[3]



Caustic embrittlement - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

1. Krishnamurthy; et al. (1 August 2007). Engineering Chemistry. PHI Learning Pvt. Ltd. p. 146. ISBN 978-81-2033287-4. Retrieved 11 September 2013.
2. Dr. B.K. Ambasta (1 January 2006). Chemistry for Engineers. Laxmi Publications. p. 94. ISBN 978-81-7008-1234. Retrieved 11 September 2013.
3. Sivasankar (2008). Engineering Chemistry. Tata McGraw-Hill Education. p. 513. ISBN 978-0-07-066932-1.
Retrieved 11 September 2013.

Further reading
S. W. Parr (1917). "The Embrittling Action Of Sodium Hydroxide on Soft Steel" (PDF). University of
Anthony A. Miele (1945). "Boiler Tube Performance" (PDF). Ohio State University.
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