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Galvanic anode - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Galvanic anode
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A galvanic anode is the main component of a galvanic cathodic

protection (CP) system used to protect buried or submerged
metal structures from corrosion.
They are made from a metal alloy with a more "active" voltage
(more negative reduction potential / more positive
electrochemical potential) than the metal of the structure. The
difference in potential between the two metals means that the
galvanic anode corrodes, so that the anode material is consumed
in preference to the structure.
The loss (or sacrifice) of the anode material gives rise to the
alternative name of sacrificial anode.

Example of a galvanic anode on the

hull of a ship.

1 Theory
2 Anode materials
3 Design considerations
4 Advantages and disadvantages of galvanic cathode protection
4.1 Advantages
4.2 Disadvantages
5 Cost effectiveness
6 See also
7 Notes
8 References

In brief, corrosion is a chemical reaction occurring by an electrochemical mechanism.[1] During
corrosion there are two reactions, oxidation (equation 1), where electrons leave the metal (and results in
the actual loss of metal) and reduction, where the electrons are used to convert water or oxygen to
hydroxides (equations 2 and 3).[2]
Fe Fe2+ + 2e


O2 + 2H2O + 4e 4OH


2H2O + 2e H2 + 2OH





Galvanic anode - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In most environments, the hydroxide ions and ferrous ions combine to form ferrous hydroxide, which
eventually becomes the familiar brown rust:[3]
Fe2+ + 2OH Fe(OH)2


As corrosion takes place, oxidation and reduction reactions occur and electrochemical cells are formed
on the surface of the metal so that some areas will become anodic (oxidation) and some cathodic
(reduction). Electric current will flow from the anodic areas into the electrolyte as the metal corrodes.
Conversely, as the electric current flows from the electrolyte to the cathodic areas the rate of corrosion is
reduced.[4] (In this example, 'electric current' is referring to conventional current flow, rather than the
flow of ions).
As the metal continues to corrode, the local potentials on the surface of the metal will change and the
anodic and cathodic areas will change and move. As a result, in ferrous metals, a general covering of
rust is formed over the whole surface, which will eventually consume all the metal. This is rather a
simplified view of the corrosion process, because it can occur in several different forms.[5]
CP works by introducing another metal (the galvanic anode) with a much more anodic surface, so that
all the current will flow from the introduced anode and the metal to be protected becomes cathodic in
comparison to the anode. This effectively stops the oxidation reactions on the metal surface by
transferring them to the galvanic anode, which will be sacrificed in favour of the structure under
For this to work there must be an electron pathway between the anode and the metal to be protected
(e.g., a wire or direct contact) and an ion pathway between both the oxidizing agent (e.g., water or moist
soil) and the anode, and the oxidizing agent and the metal to be protected, thus forming a closed circuit;
therefore simply bolting a piece of active metal such as zinc to a less active metal, such as mild steel, in
air (a poor conductor and therefore no closed circuit) will not furnish any protection.

Anode materials
There are three main metals used as galvanic anodes, magnesium, aluminium and zinc. They are all
available as blocks, rods, plates or extruded ribbon. Each material has advantages and disadvantages.
Magnesium has the most negative electropotential of the three (see galvanic series) and is more suitable
for areas where the electrolyte (soil or water) resistivity is higher. This is usually on-shore pipelines and
other buried structures, although it is also used on boats in fresh water and in water heaters. In some
cases, the negative potential of magnesium can be a disadvantage: if the potential of the protected metal
becomes too negative, hydrogen ions may be evolved on the cathode surface leading to hydrogen
embrittlement or to disbonding of the coating.[7][8] Where this is a possibility, zinc anodes may be used.
Zinc and aluminium are generally used in salt water, where the resistivity is generally lower. Typical
uses are for the hulls of ships and boats, offshore pipelines and production platforms, in salt-watercooled marine engines, on small boat propellers and rudders, and for the internal surface of storage
Zinc is considered a reliable material, but is not suitable for use at higher temperatures, as it tends to
passivate (becomes less negative); if this happens, current may cease to flow and the anode stops
working.[9] Zinc has a relatively low driving voltage, which means in higher-resistivity soils or water it



Galvanic anode - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

may not be able to provide sufficient current. However, in some circumstances where there is a risk
of hydrogen embrittlement, for example this lower voltage is advantageous, as overprotection is
Aluminium anodes have several advantages, such as a lighter weight, and much higher capacity than
zinc. However, their electrochemical behavior is not considered as reliable as zinc, and greater care must
be taken in how they are used. Aluminium anodes will passivate where chloride concentration is below
1,446 parts per million.[11]
One disadvantage of aluminium is that if it strikes a rusty surface, a large thermite spark may be
generated, therefore its use is restricted in tanks where there may be explosive atmospheres and there is a
risk of the anode falling.[8]
Since the operation of a galvanic anode relies on the difference in electropotential between the anode
and the cathode, practically any metal can be used to protect some other, providing there is a sufficient
difference in potential. For example, iron anodes can be used to protect copper.[12]

Design considerations
The design of a galvanic anode CP system should consider many factors, including the type of structure,
the resistivity of the electrolyte (soil or water) it will operate in, the type of coating and the service life.
The primary calculation is how much anode material will be required to protect the structure for the
required time. Too little material may provide protection for a while, but need to be replaced regularly.
Too much material would provide protection at an unnecessary cost. The mass in kg is given by equation
Mass = (Current Required x Design Life x 8760) (Utilisation Factor x Anode Capacity)


The design life is in years (1 year = 8760 hours).

The utilisation factor (UF) of the anode is a constant value, depending on the shape of the anode
and how it is attached, which signifies how much of the anode can be consumed before it ceases to
be effective. A value of 0.8 indicates that 80% of the anode can be consumed, before it should be
replaced. A long slender stand off anode (installed on legs to keep the anode away from the
structure) has a UF value of 0.9, whereas the UF of a short, flush mounted anode is 0.8.[13]
Anode capacity is an indication of how much material is consumed as current flows over time.
The value for zinc in seawater is 780 Ah/kg but aluminium is 2000 Ah/kg,[13] which means that, in
theory, aluminium can produce much more current than zinc before being depleted and this is one
of the factors to consider when choosing a particular material.
The amount of current required corresponds directly to the surface area of the metal exposed to the soil
or water, so the application of a coating drastically reduces the mass of anode material required. The
better the coating, the less anode material is needed.
Once the mass of material is known, the particular type of anode is chosen. Differently shaped anodes
will have a different resistance to earth, which governs how much current can be produced, so the
resistance of the anode is calculated to ensure that sufficient current will be available. If the resistance of



Galvanic anode - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

the anode is too high, either a differently shaped or sized anode is chosen, or a greater quantity of anodes
must be used.[13]
The arrangement of the anodes is then planned so as to provide an even distribution of current over the
whole structure. For example, if a particular design shows that a pipeline 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) long
needs 10 anodes, then approximately one anode per kilometere would be more effective than putting all
10 anodes at one end or in the centre.

Advantages and disadvantages of galvanic cathode protection

No external power sources required.
Relatively easy to install.
Lower voltages and current mean that risk of causing stray current interference on other structures
is low.
Require less frequent monitoring than impressed current CP systems.
Relatively low risk of overprotection.
Once installed, testing the system components is relatively simple for trained personnel.

Current capacity limited by anode mass and self consumption at low current density.
Lower driving voltage means the anodes may not work in high-resistivity environments.
Often require that structure be electrically isolated from other structures and ground.
Anodes are heavy and will increase water resistance on moving structures or pipe interiors.
Where D.C. power is available, electrical energy can be obtained more cheaply than by galvanic
Where large arrays are used wiring is needed due to high current flow and need to keep resistance
losses low.
Anodes must be carefully placed to avoid in interfering with water flow into the propeller.

Cost effectiveness
As the anode materials used are generally more costly than iron, using this method to protect ferrous
metal structures may not appear to be particularly cost effective. However, consideration should also be
given to the costs incurred by removing a ship from the water, for example, to repair a corroded hull or
to replace a steel pipeline or tank because their structural integrity has been compromised by corrosion.
However there is a limit to the cost effectiveness of a galvanic system. On larger structures, or long
pipelines, so many anodes may be needed that it would be more cost-effective to install impressed
current cathodic protection.

See also



Galvanic anode - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Galvanic corrosion

1. ^ Shrier 10:4
2. ^ Peabody p.2
3. ^ Shrier 3:4
4. ^ Peabody p.21
5. ^ Shrier 1:2
6. ^ Shrier 10:29
7. ^ Peabody p.37
8. ^ a b Schreir 10:44
9. ^ Baeckmann, Schwenck & Prinz p.185
10. ^ Schreir 10:43
11. ^ O de Rincon, M Sanchez, O Salas, G Romero, C Palacios, J Basile, J Suarez, M de Romero, R Zamora
ALLOYS IN BRACKISH WATER" (http://www.onepetro.org/mslib/servlet/onepetropreview?id=NACE10398), Comparative Behavior of Sacrificial Anodes Based on Mg, Zn, and Al Alloys in Brackish Water,
NACE, p. 15, retrieved 2013-09-05
12. ^ Schreir 10:12
13. ^ a b c d DNV RP-B401-2005

A.W. Peabody, Peabody's Control of Pipeline Corrosion, 2nd Ed., 2001, NACE International.
ISBN 1-57590-092-0
Schreir L.L. et al., Corrosion Vol. 2, 3rd Ed., 1994, ISBN 0-7506-1077-8
Baeckmann, Schwenck & Prinz, Handbook of Cathodic Corrosion Protection, 3rd Edition 1997.
ISBN 0-88415-056-9
Det Norske Veritas Recommended Practice for Cathodic Protection Design DNV RP-B401-2005
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Categories: Corrosion prevention Electrochemistry
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