Bureau of Reclamation


Rust Busters Challenge

Join the Resistance: Submit your rust busting breakthrough to extend the life of water infrastructure in the United States.
Phase 1 Winners Announced

Challenge Overview

Water infrastructure in the United States is critical to the domestic economy, commerce, and resource management.  There are thousands of existing hydraulic steel structures (HSS) that require regular maintenance and upkeep. Original methods to protect HSS are disfavored or no longer used due to environmental and safety concerns.  Newer approaches to corrosion control suffer from higher costs, shorter service life, and reduced efficacy.  

In order to address rising maintenance costs and to advance the state of the art for corrosion control, the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), in collaboration with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), is sponsoring this two phase Rust Busters Challenge.  This Challenge seeks to identify and develop new methods for corrosion control. The Challenge sponsors are vitally interested in completely new approaches that are outside of conventional thought processes for corrosion control that can be applied to existing structures in situ. There is also interest in advancing existing technologies that can significantly improve service life, reduce costs (through innovative application methods or use of new materials), or improve performance range (through additional features such as health monitoring or self-healing).

This Rust Busters Challenge offers the opportunity for the most compelling corrosion control approaches to be evaluated and field-tested by the Challenge sponsors.  In Phase 1, participants will submit a paper containing the proposed approach to corrosion control, its scientific rationale, and any supporting data. Up to 5 of the most compelling submissions will be selected as Phase 1 winners.  Only Phase 1 winners can participate in Phase 2, and each Phase 1 winner will receive up to $50,000 to help support Phase 2 efforts. During Phase 2, participants will demonstrate their technologies using test coupons supplied by Reclamation.  Test coupons and/or prototypes will be evaluated by Reclamation, and up to 3 final winners will share the final prize of $100,000. This Challenge has a total prize purse of $350,000 ($250,000 in Phase 1 and $100,000 in Phase 2). It offers a rare opportunity for Phase 2 participants to receive lab- and field-test data for their technologies and additional possibilities to continue working with Reclamation to further develop their technologies. 

Challenge structure overview:

Phase 1 

  • Open to everyone
  • Submissions must be received by January 16, 2020
  • Top 5 submissions selected to advance to Phase 2.  Winners each receive $50,000 award money and test coupons for Phase 2 (total of $250,000 awarded)

Phase 2

  • Only 5 Phase 1 winners are eligible to participate
  • Test coupons and/or prototypes must be received by September 11, 2020
  • Up to 3 winners will be selected and will share in a $100,000 final prize.

What You Can Do To Cause A Breakthrough

  • Click ACCEPT CHALLENGE above to sign up for the challenge, view the submission form, and get on our email list
  • Start a conversation in our Forum to join the conversation, ask questions or connect with other innovators.
  • Share this challenge on social media using the share icon above. Show your friends, your family, or anyone you know who has a passion for discovery.
Updates 29

Challenge Updates

Phase 1 Winners Announced!

March 3, 2020, 2 p.m. PST by Kyla Jeffrey

We are thrilled to announce the winners of Phase 1 in the Rust Busters Challenge!

Phase 1 of the Rust Busters Challenge tasked innovators from around the world to propose paper solutions to extend the life of water infrastructure in the United States. We received 35 submissions from 13 different countries. The judging panel was faced with the difficult decision of selecting five submissions to proceed to Phase 2.


And the winners are…

Barret Schlegelmilch: CRUST - Ceramic Rust Universal Sealant Technology

John Newport: High Barrier Controlled Release Rustbuster Coating

Martin Voorma: E-paint, a new method for kathodic protection

Mathew Clancy: Novel Sol Gel for Advanced Corrosion Protection

Micheal Ahimbisibwe and Jeremy Martinez: COAL TAR ENAMEL SPRAY


Phase 2 participants will each receive $35,000 and test coupons at the start of the Phase 2 development period. After successfully completing a mid-point check-in, Phase 2 participants will then each receive an additional $15,000 to help complete their development work. After the 6-month development period, Phase 2 participants will return their test coupons and prototypes to Reclamation where they will undergo laboratory and field testing. The final prize purse of up to $100,000 in award money will be shared among the winner(s). 

Thank you to everyone who submitted and followed the challenge, we could not have done it without you. We would also like to send a special thank you to our expert reviewers whose feedback was invaluable in selecting the winners of the challenge.

Only one day left!

Jan. 15, 2020, 9 a.m. PST by Liz Treadwell

It's not too late! There is one more day to submit your innovative solutions for the Rust Busters Challenge. 

Be sure to start your submission early and review the specific questions on the submission form by clicking the orange "Begin Entry" button (if you don't see it, click Accept Challenge first).

In order for your entry to be eligible, your submission must meet the requirements outlined in the Guidelines section

As a final reminder, you must finalize your submission prior to the deadline which is tomorrow at 4:59pm PST (you can view the exact time in your timezone here). 

You can view a general How to Submit your entry video here.

We are excited to review all your amazing entries!

Introducing our final judge, Bobbi Jo Merten, from the Bureau of Reclamation

Jan. 14, 2020, 7 a.m. PST by Natalie York

Bobbi Jo Merten

Chemist from the Bureau of Reclamation

Dr. Merten is a Coatings Specialist for the Bureau of Reclamation in Denver, CO. She received a Ph.D. in Coatings and Polymeric Materials from North Dakota State University in 2011. Her research activities include field evaluation of coatings by electrochemical impedance spectroscopy, economic analysis of the corrosion protection costs for hydraulic infrastructure, and research roadmapping for Reclamation infrastructure sustainability. Bobbi is certified as a NACE CP2 and SSPC Protective Coatings Specialist.

Don’t delay! Seven days until the submission deadline

Jan. 9, 2020, 11:05 a.m. PST by Liz Treadwell


There is 1 week left until we need your submissions for the Rust Busters Challenge.

This message is to remind you to complete and finalize your submission before the deadline - January 16th at 4:59pm PST. In order for your entry to be eligible, your submission must meet the requirements outlined in the Guidelines section.

In case you need assistance, you can view a How-To video on completing your submission here.

Submit any questions you may have to the forum or gethelp@herox.com

We can’t wait to see the solutions you’ve developed!

Introducing another Rust Busters challenge judge, Dave Tordonato

Jan. 7, 2020, 7 a.m. PST by Natalie York

Dave Tordonato

Material Engineer at the Bureau of Reclamation

David Tordonato is a Materials Engineer with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation performing assessments and specification development for water infrastructure.    He works in the Technical Service Center’s Materials Engineering and Research Laboratory and holds BS and MS Degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Virginia Tech as well as a Ph.D. in Materials and Metallurgical Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines.  He is an SPPC-certified protective coatings specialist, a NACE certified coatings inspector, NACE certified Cathodic Protection Technologist, and an AWS certified weld inspector (CWI).  

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