Stainless steel is any one of a family of alloy steels usually containing approximately 10% chromium.
In conjunction with low carbon content, chromium imparts remarkable resistance to corrosion and heat.
Other elements, such as nickel, molybdenum, titanium, aluminum, niobium, copper, nitrogen, sulfur, phosphorus, or selenium, may be added to increase corrosion resistance to specific environments, enhance oxidation resistance, and impart special characteristics.
Most stainless steels are first melted in electric-arc or basic oxygen furnaces and subsequently refined in another steelmaking vessel, mainly to lower the carbon content.
Harry Brearley invented the first true stainless steel in 1913. He added 12.8% chromium to iron, and produced a metal that he found was resistant to both corrosion and rust. Brearley discovered this metal while looking for a solution to the problem of erosion in the gun barrels of the British army.
The discovery was mentioned in a January 1915 newspaper article in The New York Times. It wasn’t originally called “Stainless Steel”, it was marketed under the “Staybrite” brand by Firth Vickers in England
Between the years 1919 and 1923, the use of stainless steel was adapted to the manufacturing of surgical scalpels, tools, and cutlery in Sheffield. In the early 1920s, a variety of chromium and nickel combinations were tested. Stainless steel was referred to as “18/8” to indicate the percentage of chromium and nickel in the steel.
In 1925, a stainless steel tank was used to store nitric acid, thereby establishing the fact of this unique metal’s resistance to corrosion.
In 1926, the first surgical implants made of stainless steel were performed. The hygienic aspect of the stainless steel was demonstrated in 1928 when the first stainless steel fermenting vessel was used to brew beer. Since then the food and beverage industry have widely used this metal.
In 1929, before the Great Depression, over 25,000 tons of stainless steel were manufactured and sold in the US annually.
In the 1930s, the first stainless steel train was built in the USA.
The year 1931 witnessed the creation of the first stainless steel aircraft.
By 1935, stainless steel kitchen sinks were widely used.
Type 430 stainless steel (ferritic chromium alloy) was used to make a wire 0.1mm in diameter for a voice-recording machine.
In 1954, the first stainless steel underwater TV camera was manufactured.
In 1966, the first tidal power station with stainless steel turbine blades was completed in France.
Stainless steel was put to work in applications that included tidal power plants in the 1960s and flood barriers by the 1980s.
In the 1980s, duplex stainless steel emerged. Manufacturers found that its corrosive resistant capabilities and affordable cost made it great for corrosion-heavy applications. Both the chemical industry and underwater oil industry made great use out of duplex stainless steel, even to this day.
Also in the 1980s, stainless steel was used to build the longest movable flood barrier in the world on the river Thames.
Global production of stainless steel reached 31 million Mt in 2010.
Today, China is the largest producer of stainless steel in the world. One of the leading stainless steel producers and distributors is Outokumpu, a group of companies headquartered in Espoo, Finland.
The use of stainless steel in buildings can be both practical and aesthetic. In vogue during the Art Deco period, the most famous use of stainless steel can be seen in the upper portion of the Chrysler Building. Thanks to its durability, many of these buildings have retained their original appearance.
Stainless steel is used in the construction of modern buildings, such as the exterior of the Petronas Twin Towers and the Jin Mao Building.
Cloud Gate, a sculpture by Anish Kapoor. Made up of 168 stainless steel plates welded together, its highly polished exterior has no visible seams. It measures 10 by 20 by 13 meters (33 by 66 by 42 feet), and weighs 110 short tons (100 t, 98 long tons). Constructed between 2004 and 2006, the sculpture is nicknamed The Bean because of its shape, a name Kapoor initially disliked, but later grew fond of.
The Gateway Arch is a 192-meter (630-foot) monument in St. Louis, Missouri, United States. Clad in stainless steel and built in the form of a weighted catenary arch, it is the world’s tallest arch, the tallest man-made monument in the Western Hemisphere, and Missouri’s tallest accessible building. Built as a monument to the westward expansion of the United States, and officially dedicated to “the American people,” the Arch, commonly referred to as “The Gateway to the West” is the centerpiece of Gateway Arch National Park and has become an internationally recognized symbol of St. Louis, as well as a popular tourist destination.
Unisphere, constructed as the theme symbol of the 1964 New York World’s Fair, is constructed of Type 304L stainless steel as a spherical framework with a diameter of 37 meters (120 feet).
United States Air Force Memorial has an austenitic stainless steel structural skin.
The aluminium cladding of the spheres and tubes of the Atomium was renovated with stainless-steel cladding in 2006.