Definition - What does Degradation mean?

Degradation is a process that renders an object useless or less useful over time. Degradation can be caused by many different means, and it is almost always considered an undesirable process. Preventing and combating the degradation of a part, product or structure is a major challenge that many engineers face.

Corrosionpedia explains Degradation

There are many avenues through which degradation may occur. One of the most common ways is through physical wear, such as when a material consistently rubs against another material. A form of degradation that affects many types of polymers is degradation due to ultraviolet light, which over time can disrupt the bonds that chain a polymer together. Chemical degradation is another process that can cause a material to become less useful over time. For example, exposure to hydrochloric acid can dissolve and degrade steel over time.

Degradation prevention is a significant design consideration for many products and structures. To prevent degradation caused by physical contact, many products are made out of hardened materials that resist wear and indentation. Materials can also be hardfaced in areas that are subject to localized physical contact with other substrates. To prevent the ultraviolet degradation of polymers, an engineer may specify certain additives such as benzophenones or oxanilides that absorb the UV radiation and render it harmless to the polymer. Products and structures can be protected from chemical degradation by selecting only those materials that do not dissolve in the solutions they will be exposed to. For example, a part might constructed from gold, which hydrochloric acid cannot dissolve.

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