Decorative Electroplating: Theory to Explain Rapid Corrosion Due to Calcium Chloride ‘Russian Mud’ - The 48th William Blum Lecture

This presentation is the 48th William Blum Lecture, presented at SUR/FIN 2010 in Grand Rapids, Michigan on June 14, 2010. In this lecture, Dr. Donald Snyder describes the phenomena behind a new challenge to decorative Cu-Ni-Cr plating, catastrophic corrosion failures involving the use of calcium chloride on Russian highways

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Dr. Donald Snyder

Recipient of the 2009 William Blum

NASF Scientific Achievement Award


Editor’s Note: The following summary article of the 48th William Blum Lecture, presented at SUR/FIN 2010 in Grand Rapids, Michigan on June 14, 2010, was taken from a summary article of the conference, published in Plating & Surface Finishing.  The Powerpoint presentation used in Dr. Snyder’s lecture follows this summary.  A printable version of the summary and presentation is available by clicking HERE.


A long-standing tradition dating to the selection of Dr. William Blum as the first recipient of the AESF Scientific Achievement Award in the 1950s, the 2009 NASF Scientific Achievement Award winner, Dr. Donald Snyder, of Atotech USA (Rock Hill, SC) was present to deliver the 2010 William Blum Lecture at SUR/FIN 2010 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  His entire career has concentrated on decorative automotive finishes, focusing on trivalent chromium plating and corrosion studies.  His talk covered a rather interesting problem in some serious corrosion failures in decorative chromium plated automotive hardware. 

One would think that over 50-60 years, we would have seen everything when it came to corrosion performance of these parts.  But no, there was one more, perhaps unseen until the Cold War had ended, when “the Russian mud problem” came to light.  The increasing numbers of automobiles in Russia after the Cold War made a serious problem more visible and prevalent.  Catastrophic failures of copper-nickel-chromium plated layers exhibited large-scale attack of the entire coating, resulting in direct attack of the substrate, with no classic corrosion-delaying side trips into the bright / semi-bright nickel underlayers.  Dr. Snyder led us through the studies that had been undertaken, which found the culprit to be the heavy use of calcium chloride in wintertime on Russian roads, in contrast to the sodium chloride used in our road salt.  Calcium chloride becomes a literal poultice when mixed with the mud surface that is common on many highways, and is a disastrous combination on decorative chromium coating systems.  Even in long-established technology, there remains nothing new under the sun.

Other contributors to this work, from Atotech Deut5schland GmbH - Berlin were:

  • Günther Bauer
  • Dr. Constanze Donner
  • Dr. Philip Hartmann
  • Dr. Philipp Wachter

Following his talk, Don was presented with the Scientific Achievement Award plaque by Dr. Jim Lindsay, Editor of Plating & Surface Finishing.  Dr. Lindsay noted that it was a particular pleasure to present the award to Don Snyder.  For many years, Don had been Chairman of the Scientific Achievement Award selection committee.  Many members had felt that he had been deserving of the award for many years, but they were frustrated in not being able to select him.  “It just doesn’t look right to give it to the Chair of the selection committee.” Lindsay noted.  Finally, when Don moved on to other duties, including the Presidency of the AESF Foundation, the selection committee made their move.  Clearly, Dr. Snyder’s selection was worth waiting for.

About the author

The NASF Scientific Achievement Award is the Association’s most prestigious award.  Its purpose is to recognize those whose outstanding scientific contributions have advanced the theory and practice of electroplating, metal finishing and allied arts; have raised the quality of products and processes; or have advanced the dignity and status of the profession.

Now a professional consultant, Dr. Donald Snyder, was Worldwide Technical Manager at Atotech, in Rock Hill, South Carolina, when he retired in 2011.  Dr. Snyder earned his Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Case Western University and holds an MBA from John Carroll University.  He worked in various managerial roles during a more than 40-year career at Harshaw Chemical Co. in Cleveland, Ohio, starting as research director in 1970.  Harshaw Chemical was acquired and become Atotech in 1993.

His dedicated service to the AESF and NASF over the years includes the Board of Directors and membership on many Boards and Committees.  He has chaired many of these entities as well.  He has been Chairman of the Publications Board, a Member of the Research Board and numerous other Committees.  More recently, he has served on the AESF Foundation Board of Trustees, including a term as President in 2010-2011.  In 2016, he was honored as an NASF Fellow.

He has been active in other groups as well, in particular on ASTM International Committee B08 on Metallic and Inorganic Coatings.  In 2015, he received the Frederick A. Lowenheim Memorial Award from that group. 






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