Evaluation of sodium nitrite as a corrosion inhibitor for USS Monitor artifacts

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Publication Type:

Journal Article


Elsa Sangouard; Eric Nordgren; Ralph Spohn; Kathleen Brunke; David Krop;


Studies in Conservation, Volume 60, Number 4, p.253-266 (2015)


The use of sodium nitrite (NaNO2) as a corrosion inhibitor for wet archeological metal objects presents potential advantages of near neutral pH, low concentration, effectiveness on several metals, and compatibility with organic materials. The effectiveness of NaNO2 as a corrosion inhibitor for storage of chloride-containing marine archeological metal objects from the wreck of the USS Monitor was evaluated using marine-corroded carbon steel analogs. The samples were tested in varying concentrations of NaNO2 and evaluated visually and by monitoring solution chemistry using ion chromatography (IC). It was found that a concentration of 1000 ppm NaNO2, replaced four times, was effective at protecting corroded carbon steel in the presence of chlorides. Nitrite solutions were no more rapid than sodium hydroxide (NaOH) at extracting chlorides from marine steel at equal concentrations and were considerably slower than 2% NaOH. IC analyses indicated that NO2 does not easily oxidize to NO3 under normal conditions, but does so readily when a polarizing current is applied, making nitrites unsuitable for electrolytic reduction treatments. Sodium nitrite does show promise as a storage solution prior to desalination of marine metals or after desalination to prevent flash corrosion during rinsing baths.