EPSRC Prosperity Partnerships - The University of Manchester and BP

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A short video on the new Prosperity Partnership project between The University of Manchester and BP.

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Professor Philip Withers FRS, Regius Professor of Materials - The University of Manchester (PW)

My name is Phil Withers. I'm Regius Professor of Material Science here at Manchester and we've got together with BP to try and understand the fundamentals of corrosion.

Corrosion is all around us; it costs over two trillion dollars a year and leads to all sorts of unexpected failures. BP brought together some of the world's experts to look at what's important to them and this was identified as one of the most important issues - one of the issues where science could have one of the biggest impacts.

Dr Sheetal Handa, BP-ICAM Associate Director - BP Plc (SH)

Materials underpin almost everything that BP does from exploring oil and gas to producing it, to transporting it, right through our refinery operations, our petro-chemical operations and our fuel and lubricants business. Understanding materials at a fundamental level is really important to our industrial operations.

This Prosperity Partnership is the first time that we are going to bring together the different disciplines in modelling and in imaging to do experiments in real life situations. Together on this scale, what that means is, we understand those processes much better and we can then start to design materials and mitigation techniques which are long lasting and enduring.


Traditionally we tend to study corrosion once it's well developed and try and understand and create laws that tell us when the corrosion becomes critical. What we're doing is using new techniques to really look at the basis at which corrosion begins, why does it occur in some places and not in others? What causes a film to develop? What makes that film unstable? And by doing that we'll be able to develop new alloys and new coatings that will lead to longer lives.

Manchester, Cambridge and Imperial have been working together for over five years with BP looking at a wide range of advanced materials problems, but to solve this problem we needed to bring in new skills. So we've got expertise from Leeds on tribo-corrosion and we've got expertise from Edinburgh looking at how high pressure can affect the behaviour of interfaces.


Another significant problem that we are looking at is where? Where is the surface degradation problem - it happens in our engines, it happens in industrial applications. If we understood that better we could have better lubricants which means that we could start to reduce emissions and have more efficient engines.


In the second phase of this project we will be able to build on the knowledge we gained in the first part to try and develop smart coatings and smart films that are much more stable and even can self-repair themselves.


By developing that fundamental understanding of those degradation processes through this collaboration, we have the potential to deliver significant impact to a range of industries, not just the oil and gas industries but industries such as aerospace, transport and energy.


Over a billion tonnes of steel are produced every year. Most of that steel is corroding from day one, so just think of the benefits if we can improve the lifetime of our steel products.