Record of zinc usage in construction began in 79 AD, which could be considered the origination of galvanizing. However, the first recorded history of galvanizing dates back to 1742 when a French chemist named P.J. Malouin, in a presentation to the French Royal Academy, described a method of coating iron with molten zinc.
In 1772, Luigi Galvani, galvanizing’s namesake, discovered the electrochemical process that takes place between metals during an experiment with frog legs. And in 1801, Alessandro Volta furthered the research on galvanizing when he discovered the electropotential between two metals, creating a corrosion cell.
In 1829, Michael Faraday discovered zinc’s sacrificial action during an experiment involving zinc, salt water, and nails. Shortly after, in 1837, French engineer Stanislaus Tranquille Modeste Sorel took out a patent for the early galvanizing process. By 1850, the British galvanizing industry was consuming 10,000 tons of zinc annually for the production of galvanized steel.
The United States, slightly behind, had its first galvanizing plant open in 1870. At the time, the steel was hand dipped in the zinc bath. Today, over 600,000 tons of zinc is consumed annually in North America to produce hot-dip galvanized steel.
Galvanizing is found in almost every major application and industry where iron or steel is used. The utilities, chemical process, pulp and paper, automotive, and transportation industries, to name just a few, historically have made extensive use of galvanizing for corrosion control. They continue to do so today. For over 150 years, hot-dip galvanizing has had a proven history of commercial success as a method of corrosion protection in myriad applications worldwide.