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The expansive force of rusting, which may be called oxide jacking or rust burst, is a phenomenon that can cause damage to structures made of stone, masonry, concrete or ceramics, and reinforced with metal components. A definition is "the displacement of building elements due to the expansion of iron and steel products as the metal rusts and becomes iron oxide". Corrosion of other metals such as aluminum can also cause oxide jacking.
According to metallurgist Jack Harris, "Oxidation is usually accompanied by a net expansion so that when it occurs in a confined space stresses are generated in the metal component itself or in any surrounding medium such as stone or cement. So much energy is released by oxidation that the stresses generated are of sufficient magnitude to deform or fracture all known materials."
As early as 1915, it was recognized that certain modern metal alloys are more susceptible to excessive oxidation when subjected to weathering than other metals. At that time, there was a trend to replace wrought iron fasteners with mild steel equivalents, which were less expensive. Unexpectedly, the mild steel fasteners failed in real world use much more quickly than anticipated, leading to a return to use of wrought iron in certain applications where length of service was important.
In a 1987 article in New Scientist, Jack Harris reported that oxide jacking has caused significant damage to many historic structures in the United Kingdom, including St Paul's Cathedral, the British Museum and the Albert Memorial in London, Gloucester Cathedral, St. Margaret's Church in King's Lynn, Winchester Cathedral, and Blackburn Cathedral.
Harris also wrote that oxide jacking also damaged the ancient Horses of Saint Mark on the exterior of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice. Expansive rusting of iron and steel bolts and reinforcements affected the structural integrity of the copper horse sculptures, which were relocated indoors and replaced with replicas. Poorly-designed early 20th-century renovations also led to oxide jacking damage to the Acropolis of Athens.
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