Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Major Professor

Alberto A. Sagüés, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Julie Harmon, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Babu Joseph, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Clifford Merz, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Gray Mullins, Ph.D.


rebar, potential dependent threshold, marine, cathodic protection, chloride, passivity


This investigation determined that severe corrosion of steel can occur in the submerged portions of reinforced concrete structures in marine environments. Field studies of decommissioned pilings from actual bridges revealed multiple instances of strong corrosion localization, showing appreciable local loss of steel cross-section. Quantitative understanding of the phenomenon and its causes was developed and articulated in the form of a predictive model. The predictive model output was consistent with both the corrosion rate estimates and the extent of corrosion localization observed in the field observations. The most likely explanation for the observed phenomena that emerged from the understanding and modeling is that cathodic reaction rates under oxygen diffusional limitation that are negligible in cases of uniform corrosion can nevertheless support substantial corrosion rates if the corrosion becomes localized. A dynamic evolution form of the model was created based on the proposition that much of the steel in the submerged concrete zone remained in the passive condition given cathodic prevention that resulted from favorable macrocell coupling with regions of the steel that had experienced corrosion first. The model output also matched observations from the field, supporting the plausibility of the proposed scenario.

The modeling also projected that corrosion in the submerged zone could be virtually eliminated via the use of sacrificial anode cathodic protection; the rate of corrosion damage progression in the low elevation zone above water could also be significantly reduced. Continuation work should be conducted to define an alternative to the prevalent limit-state i.e., visible external cracks and spalls, for submerged reinforced concrete structures. Work should also be conducted to determine the possible structural consequences of this form of corrosion and to assess the technical feasibility and cost/benefit aspects of incorporating protective anodes in new pile construction.