Associate Professor Nick Birbilis

Associate Professor Nick Birbilis
Research Field: Materials engineering
Monash University 

Corrosion is a major problem for the modern world. We presently live in a metals based civilisation, where we take metals for granted. Our cars, engines, electronic, bridges, planes, and even our cutlery, are all made of metal. Life without metals is unimaginable. Metals are ours to enjoy because we have evolved to extract them from ores – where they effectively start their life as dirt. Mother Nature wants to return metals to their original form, which is their lowest energy state. This means that engineers must find, detect, stop and design against corrosion. (ie rust!) The barrier to corrosion of metals is a very thin ‘passive’ layer, which is only a few tens of atoms thick, comprised of a metal oxide. This nanoscale layer is what protects a metal from disintegration; meaning it’s a very fragile balance. The development of the next generation of corrosion resistant metals, to serve the needs of society depends on getting that little layer of a few tens of atoms on the metal to be ‘just right’.

Nick is involved with the annual Open Day at Monash University where the mysterious world of “Materials Science and Engineering” is demonstrated to the public and aspiring students. Nick also hosts and arranges tours for visiting school groups, giving walk-throughs and demonstrations. Outside of university Nick is an ambassador for promotion of science as a long standing role in the ACA in which he has arranged numerous seminars since 2006 promoting the notion of science underpinning the fight against corrosion.