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“Being in on the ground floor of a project is one of the joys for me,” says Mike Salerno ’00, a chemical engineering major from Newton, N.J., and a graduate of Newton High School. “If it works, that will be great. If it doesn’t, we will have closed down one avenue for other researchers.”

“London Bridge is falling down” goes the children’s song, but there is nothing childlike or childish about the research Marquis Scholar Mike Salerno is doing this summer. Salerno is studying ways of inhibiting the corrosion that has modern-day bridges tumbling down.

Salerno is participating in Lafayette’s EXCEL Scholars program, working under the guidance of Ricardo J. Bogaert-Alvarez, assistant professor of chemical engineering.

“Corrosion of steel rebars by chloride-induced corrosion is the main cause of the deterioration of bridges in the United States. In Pennsylvania alone, 40 percent of the 23,186 bridges are deficient due to corrosion problems,” Bogaert-Alvarez says. “Our long-term goal is to determine the feasibility of using iodide salts as de-icing salt additives to prevent this corrosion.”

The importance of the research is not lost on Salerno, who says, “If we can figure out a way to inhibit corrosion, we can possibly save billions of dollars.”

After going through the literature and checking background information on the corrosion of stainless steels, Salerno advanced to what he enjoys the most, “hands-on work in the laboratory.” He’s becoming acquainted with the fundamentals of corrosion science, including the electrochemical methods for studying corrosion, linear polarization, cyclic polarization, and electrochemical impedence spectroscopy.

“We’re running a series of tests on one kind of carbon steel,” he explains. “It will let us pick up the trends between the concentration in the water of the iodide salts. We need to study the type of salt, the amount of salt, and the variable rate. The test samples are hooked to a computer which monitors current going through, flowing at a given voltage, and from that you can determine the corrosion rate.

“Being in on the ground floor of a project is one of the joys for me,” Salerno continues. “If it works, that will be great. If it doesn’t, we will have closed down one avenue for other researchers.”

Salerno is also helping Bogaert-Alvarez, a newcomer to the Lafayette faculty, set up his laboratory.

“This has been a very positive experience,” says Salerno. “You get to build up a personal relationship with a professor, and, long-term, you learn more from that personal attention. Having the chance to do research is a real boost to your resume, something you don’t get from the huge universities.”

“Mike has shown diligence and a clear understanding of engineering principles,” says Bogaret-Alvarez, adding that one of Salerno’s responsibilities is to write up his results and present the findings to the chemical engineering department in the fall “so that he gains experience for his thesis defense.”

Salerno is a member of the College Bowl and a member of the campus chapter of AIChE, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. He plans to attend graduate school, possibly in materials science. He says that his Lafayette experience has sharpened his interest in research and development.

Categorized in: Academic News