While many of us associate the introduction of steel into economics with the start of the First Industrial Revolution, steel has actually been around for a VERY long time. Steel has always been a game changer, from its invention in the 13th century BC to our modern day “trade wars.”
The story of steel…
“Steel’s indisputable significance is confirmed by the fact that it has become the second most mass-produced commodity after cement production, attaining the world-wide production volume of approx. 750 mil tons yearly.” —The Steel Federation
- The noun steel originates from the Proto-Germanic adjective stakhlijan (made of steel), which is related to stakhla (standing firm).
- The carbon in typical steel alloys may contribute up to 2.1% of its weight.
- Steel’s strength compared to pure iron is only possible at the expense of iron’s ductility, of which iron has an excess.
- Common elements alloyed with steel include: manganese, nickel, chromium, molybdenum, boron, titanium, vanadium, tungsten, cobalt, and niobium.
- There are many types of heat treating processes available to steel. The most common are annealing, quenching, and tempering.
- Steel is one of the world’s most-recycled materials, with a recycling rate of over 60% globally.
- In the United States the steel recycling rate is around 83%.
- Steel is 100% recyclable with no downgrading in quality, which makes steel the most recycled material in the world.
- Approximately 96% of steel is continuously cast, while only 4% is produced as ingots.
- Carbon steel, composed simply of iron and carbon, accounts for 90% of steel production.
- Recent Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations have given rise to a new variety of steel known as Advanced High Strength Steel (AHSS).
- Stainless steels contain a minimum of 11% chromium, often combined with nickel, to resist corrosion. Some stainless steels, such as the ferritic stainless steels are magnetic, while others, such as the austenitic, are nonmagnetic. Corrosion-resistant steels are abbreviated as CRES.
- Some more modern steels include tool steels, which are alloyed with large amounts of tungsten and cobalt or other elements to maximize solution hardening. This also allows the use of precipitation hardening and improves the alloy’s temperature resistance.
- Other special-purpose alloys include weathering steels such as Cor-ten, which weather by acquiring a stable, rusted surface, and so can be used un-painted.
- Maraging steel is alloyed with nickel and other elements, but unlike most steel contains little carbon (0.01%). This creates a very strong but still malleable steel.
- Eglin steel uses a combination of over a dozen different elements in varying amounts to create a relatively low-cost steel for use in bunker buster weapons.
- Hadfield steel (after Sir Robert Hadfield) or manganese steel contains 12–14% manganese which when abraded strain-hardens to form an incredibly hard skin which resists wearing. Examples include tank tracks, bulldozer blade edges and cutting blades on the jaws of life.
- Most of the more commonly used steel alloys are categorized into various grades by standards organizations. For example, the Society of Automotive Engineers has a series of grades defining many types of steel. The American Society for Testing and Materials has a separate set of standards, which define alloys such as A36 steel, the most commonly used structural steel in the United States. The JIS also define series of steel grades that are being used extensively in Japan as well in third world countries.
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