U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

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Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations

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Coatings and Corrosion Laboratory



Purpose: The Coatings and Corrosion Laboratory improves coating and corrosion test methods while gauging the durability and performance of innovative coating systems designed to prevent corrosion of steel bridges.

The mission of the Coatings and Corrosion Laboratory is to: evaluate the durability and corrosion performance of structural materials; research and develop methods of preventing or delaying corrosion; analyze the effectiveness of innovative coatings systems in preventing corrosion; perform metallic material property determinations; and provide forensic, failure analysis and lot testing for metallic structural components.

Description: The Coatings and Corrosion Laboratory can perform both long- and short-term corrosion rate research and tests on structural and reinforcing metals. Protective coating systems are evaluated with accelerated laboratory techniques and outdoor natural exposure conditions. Innovative testing procedures are developed for assessing corrosion and premature coating failures on steel bridges.  Other highway construction materials such as grout, concrete, and soil are analyzed and evaluated for long-term durability regarding corrosion of reinforcement. In addition, the lab assists State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) to solve a variety of infrastructure-related corrosion and coating problems and provides technical assistance and input where needed.

Special Capabilities: The Coatings and Corrosion Laboratory performs the following activities.

  • Produces bridge coating performance data for DOTs.
  • Develops laboratory test methods to study the performance of various bridge coatings.
  • Develops forensic analytical techniques for identifying bridge coating type and determining causes of field coating failures.
  • Evaluates mechanical properties of coatings with various physical test methods.
  • Characterizes paint composition using wet chemistry methods, scanning electron microscopy/energy dispersive spectroscopy, and other advanced analytical techniques.
  • Develops test protocol for determining chloride and other corrosive ions in grout samples for posttensioned cables.
  • Determines toxicities of bridge coatings and their disposal options.
  • Assesses the conditions of galvanized steel bars and determines soil corrosivity of metallically stabilized earth retaining wall.
  • Detects premature coating failures using microscopic, spectroscopic, and other techniques.
  • Determines chloride and other corrosive contaminants using ion chromatography, titration, and field deployable methods.
  • Investigates wetting properties of coating materials using contact angle measurement system.
  • Evaluates the accuracy and efficiency of both laboratory and field test methods for determining the level of contamination on steel bridges.
  • Determines corrosion rate using nondestructive electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS).
  • Performs American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHTO) standard paint tests.


Services: The Coatings and Corrosion Laboratory performs the following services.

  • Assists State DOTs in selecting durable coating systems in different environmental conditions.
  • Recommends testing techniques to State DOTs and industries for determination of coating failure.
  • Provides technical assistance to other research groups within Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center.


Ion Chromatography - To determine the concentration of ions in samples with high accuracy. Performs multiple anion analysis with automated sampler. Ion Chromatography
Automated Titration System - To determine chloride content in a variety of samples, including concrete, grout, soil, and cement. Automated Titration System
Drop Shape Analysis - To measure contact angle using optical method and determine surface free energy of non-porous and porous solids based on contact angle measurements. Determines polar and disperse fractions of the surface free energy. Drop Shape Analysis


Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000
Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center | 6300 Georgetown Pike | McLean, VA | 22101