Identification of failure modes is a complex, time-consuming issue. As agencies transition to sustainable surface treatments, researchers need to be sure that the technologies are going to provide adequate lifetime and that the mechanism of failure is understood.

Failure analysis of test coupons and component structures is a difficult problem. In many cases, coupons or test samples are placed in salt-fog chambers or on coastal-beach test stands for prolonged periods. Researchers use specially designed test fixtures to consider dissimilar metals or added stress. Coupons are often cross hatched or pre-damaged to determine if adhesion is adequate or if the corrosion process can be accelerated.

In addition to long-term or accelerated-aging studies, SERDP and ESTCP have been considering computational studies performed alongside aging studies in order to develop a statistical understanding of failure modes. It is expected that a mechanistic understanding of failure will lead to improved maintenance processes.