I say I say I say….did you hear about the Government ministry which decided to use lower-grade materials and less stringent test procedures in order to save money on its military hardware?
Then again, there are plenty of people out there who have no technical training, and who think that engineering, metallurgy, paint technology etc are intact fields of science in which there are no further discoveries to be made.
Britain needs a critical mass of technical experts in a range of disciplines, spread out across the whole country and both private and public sectors. Otherwise we’ll end up with a whole catalogue of disasters to match the story below:
The story so far, as reported on the BBC News website (10 Dec 12):
“ “Slow, leaky and rusty” was how a recent headline in the Guardian newspaper described the Royal Navy’s latest £1.2bn attack submarine. It’s hard to deny that HMS Astute has so far hit the headlines for mostly the wrong reasons.
Early in its sea trials in 2010, Astute – the first of the Navy’s brand new submarine class of the same name – ran aground off the Isle of Skye. After colliding with a tug that had come to her rescue she had to go back for repairs.
And last year, whilst docked in Southampton on a “good will visit” a crew member shot dead an officer, Lieutenant Commander Ian Molyneux. And then came the Guardian story that highlighted an alarming list of technical problems. They included corroded pipes, the wrong lead around the nuclear reactor, a flood caused by an incorrect fitting and questions about her speed. So it may be little surprise that some have started calling Astute “HMS Calamity” instead.”
In the field of corrosion science we carry out long-term evaluations, preparing dozens of coated panels and subjecting them to repeated cycles of salt-water, UV light, and low temperature to make sure that the adhesion and hardness are not compromised by environmental ageing. But these programmes are expensive – and if the results are unsatisfactory, then a further six-month test regime needs to be organised.
And the most effective anti-corrosive pigments, based on chromium (VI) are gradually being phased out for environmental safety reasons – leaving engineers with the task of designing systems around inferior substitutes. Even zinc phosphate has been classified as a marine pollutant, so that alternative materials need to be investigated.
The answer to this problem may lie in the development of nan0-material barrier pigments which can resist the ingress of water and oxygen, or finely-deposited layers of conductive polymer film.
It would be interesting to study the research programmes carried out in Japan and Korea, to find out if their strategic approach generates information more rapidly.