Things you didn’t know about stainless steel

Stainless steel, according to Southern Africa Stainless Steel Development Association, is generic term for a group of cohesion resistant steels. Its chromium-rich content (which appears as a thin, invisible oxide film — known as the passive film) allows for this type of remarkable resistance from attack, also countenancing for rapid self-repair. Stainless steel is indeed a fascinating alloy, and there are many interesting facts about it.

Stainless steel balustrades

The invention of stainless steel

The first in a series of interesting facts is that stainless steel was invented by accident. In 1912, metallurgist Harry Brearly was commissioned to research ways in which erosion in gun barrels could be eliminated. After months of experimentation and a variety of different metals mixtures (each of which was thrown away into a rubbish pile), Brearly added chromium to low carbon steel, with remarkable results: steel that could not be stained. He originally termed this “rustless steel”, which soon became known as stainless steel after it was discovered that vinegar had no effects on it.

Why is stainless steel stainless?

Through the addition of 12% (minimum) chromium to the steel makes it resistant to rust and all stains. The chromium combines with oxygen to form the passive film. If a situation occurs where the metal is disrupted by scratches, more oxide will form and recover the exposed surface. Unfortunately, in very humid areas, stainless steel may rust, but in normal conditions, the lifespan of stainless steel is very long, and this is due to its cryogenic temperature, which prevents brittleness.

Advantages of stainless steel

There’s no wonder why stainless steel has so many applications in modern construction with the following advantage:

  • Non-magnetic properties;
  • Corrosive environment;
  • Non-toxic;
  • Antibacterial properties;
  • Hygienic metal, which is stain-resistant and easy to clean;
  • An attractive metal;
  • Durable, does not chip or crack;
  • Wet abrasion resistance;
  • Environmentally friendly;
  • High strength vs. mass.

Stainless steel application

Stainless steel was first used in the construction of a roof in America in 1924. Then in 1933, stainless steel kitchen sinks and furniture was used. Some 30 years later, stainless steel razor blades were introduced into the market. In fact, the amount of stainless steel applications are near-limitless, from the construction of buildings to transportation (including rail and even space shuttles), to cutlery, surgical instruments and even certain handguns.

Fun facts about stainless steel

Did you know that rubbing stainless steel on yourself gets rid of bad odours? Nobody knows why for sure, but experiments conducted have revealed that rubbing a stainless steel bar on any kind of smell removes it completely. There is a theory that the steel acts as an abrasive and that the nickel in the steel causes ionisation which fools the nose into thinking the smell has disappeared.

No matter what you use steel for, you are guaranteed of strength and durability, variety and functionality in all applications.

Sources: Brain Candy, Cecil Adams: OMG Facts, Chemistry.about, Grey Feather Toys, Southern Africa Stainless Steel Development Association (SASSDA)

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