Christopher Gros

Material Stories

For my second short project I want to explore what a certain material can tell about its history, or rather its story. It may be decayed, weathered, corroded, beaten, scratched or even in pristine shape. Each and every one of these conditions has got certain causes. The object might be used regularly, it might be neglected, it might just be old or very well taken care of.

My goal now is to understand how certain materials change. I want to try and learn reading their stories. Since this is a mighty task, I decided to start small.

First, I got some iron bars. I opted for iron because it is fairly easy to wear down and manipulate which helps me to get some results pretty soon. Besides, iron and steel are materials that are literally everywhere. We encounter them in various environments which means they are exposed to a lot of different influences. For me, that is the perfect material to start with.

I cut my iron bars into several smaller chunks. In my first experiment I am going to put these into different liquids ranging from alkali to acid. I hope to get different states and kinds of rust and corrosion.

Coca-Cola (ph=2,0-3,0), Vinegar (ph=2,5), Tap Water from Munich (ph=7,2-7,8), Saltwater (ph=7,5-8,4), Soap (ph=9,0-10,0), Source: Wikipedia

Update 20.04.2017

After a week my samples look completely different. They changed colors and started to smell and small particles are now levitating in them. Every liquid had a different effect on the iron.

The one sitting in Coke got pale brown spots and a few bruises in the dark grey outer layer, especially around the edges. The second one lost this outer layer completely in the vinegar and now seems brand new. Tap water and saltwater had similar effects. The iron gathered a layer of rust in both cases but the saltwater seemed to have a stronger impact leaving a thicker and darker crust. The soap did virtually nothing.

left to right: Coca-Cola, Vinegar, Tap Water, Saltwater, Soap

Update 23.4.2017

For my second experiment I decided to distress the samples first. I removed their outer oxide layer (on some of them at least partially) and damaged the surface with deep scratches and scuffs. This should give the rust an even better chance.
Also this time I do not just let the samples sit in a liquid for days straight. Instead, I place them outside for a few hours every once in a while in order to speed up the corrosion by exposing them to the air.

The samples wiped with saltwater…
…and the ones with salt and vinegar.

The corrosion is coming super fast with this method. You can actually see it within minutes of them having contact with the air.

Update 27.4.2017

To conclude this experiment I picked my five most interesting samples. It really is fascinating what just ever so subtle changes in its environment do to a material and how they change the story it tells.


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