Exploring materials is certainly a complex, technical discussion but by diving deeper into the subject, we can discover many practical aspects that are both useful and interesting.
The term steel refers to an alloy of iron and carbon (and potentially other metals) with a percentage of carbon that is no greater than 2.1%. The qualities that make steel recognisable are its strength, resistance, and elasticity, characteristics that exist thanks to the activity of carbon atoms that stand in the iron microcrystalline structure by blocking the flow and locations of atomic planes.
Steel’s importance is enormous, its uses innumerable, as are the varieties in which it is made. Consider that today in the world there are approximately 500 million tons of steel produced annually
HISTORY AND EVOLUTION
While it is not possible to name one sole discoverer of this metal, it is believed that the first population to produce steel was the Hindus during the time of the Roman Empire.
The production methods during this era were very expensive and large pieces could not be created. Then in 1740 in England crucible steel was discovered, which led to the Industrial Revolution. Steel production increased exponentially and led to a series of innovations to obtain a metal with more varied characteristics. The first of these was the discovery that by heating carbon in the absence of oxygen and allowing the sulphur to evaporate you could obtain a better quality steel that would be free of damaging impurities. Then the blast furnace was introduced which allowed mineral impurities to be burned through a stream of oxygen and the addition of limestone, while also allowing the carbon rate to be controlled. In 1913 stainless steel was discovered, the most important type of steel that exists today.
And it is stainless steel, its history, its characteristics, and its applications that we will explore in our next Focus article.