NEWS | June 13, 2012

NRL Materials Engineer Receives Navy Meritorious Award

By Daniel Parry

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory materials research engineer Keith Lucas, of the Chemistry Division, is the recipient of the 2012 Department of the Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award for comprehensive research in marine corrosion mitigation and effective cost-saving transfer to the U.S. Navy Fleet, increasing operational capabilities and useful life of both submarines and ships.

Re-preservation costs correlated to corrosion damage of U.S. Navy ships has been documented at nearly $3 billion annually, with shipboard tanks and voids being the leading contributor to this expense.

Early in his career Lucas and his co-inventors developed a paired reference electrode and instrumented sacrificial anode system and remote data logger that allows for remote assessment of the state of preservation of shipboard tanks and voids, said Dr. Richard Colton, superintendent, NRL Chemistry Division. This laid the foundation for the development of tank monitoring systems now being implemented in the surface combatant fleet.

These systems are projected to provide an annual realized cost avoidance of nearly $10 million a year through the reduction of ballast tank opening, gas-freeing and manned entry for the purpose of tank coating inspections.

Acknowledged for contributions to the field of marine corrosion and corrosion control, Lucas is also internationally recognized as a leading authority in the mechanisms and the development and design of cathodic protection systems. Founding the NRL Center for Corrosion Science and Engineering in 2000, Lucas has successfully made NRL the U.S. Navy's premier engineering design agent for cathodic protection systems.

During his tenure as the Center's director, Lucas led a team of scientists and engineers that developed, and transitioned to the fleet, rapid-cure single-coat tank coatings, tank monitoring systems, the Insertable Stalk Imaging System (ISIS), and the development and testing of the most sophisticated impressed current cathodic protection systems (ICCP) presently installed aboard Navy Virginia-class submarines.

Earning a bachelor of science degree from Northeastern University, Boston, Mass., and later a master's in 1986 at the University of Delaware College of Marine Studies, Lucas began his career as a materials research engineer at NRL's Marine Corrosion Facility in Key West, Fla., and was promoted to section head and facility director.

Starting in 1990, Lucas and his colleagues began two decades of scientific research in the field of cathodic protection modeling, leading the early efforts to establish mathematical principles and scaling laws for the physical scale modeling of marine vessels for the purpose of cathodic protection.

Lucas, together with colleagues, studied the effects of electrolytic chlorination on materials, environmental effects on metallic and non-metallic materials, principles of corrosion monitoring and detection, and the theory and practice of cathodic protection design. His research showed that using Physical Scale Modeling (PSM) of ICCP it was possible to scale electrolytic path lengths to accurately and repeatedly simulate full-scale electrochemical systems.

The development of the PSM technique for ICCP design allowed for the simulation and optimization of full-scale cathodic protection systems while allowing for realistic cathodic current demand and distribution at practicable laboratory scales, allowing for the first time, an empirical approach to underwater hull corrosion control system design.

To date, eight United States Navy (USN) ship classes and three USN submarine classes have ICCP designed by this method. In addition, both the United Kingdom Navy and French Navy have active research programs based on these concepts.

Located on Fleming Key, adjacent to the island of Key West, Fla., the Chemistry Division's Marine Corrosion Facility plays an important role in providing technical expertise to Naval Sea Systems Command and supports the command directly as a designated engineering agent (EA) for the Navy Materials/Corrosion/Coatings Technical Authority. The facility is additionally designated by NAVSEA as the cathodic protection design agent for Navy ships and serves as EA in the areas of cathodic protection, coatings and corrosion control.