What Is Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is an alloy of Iron with a minimum of 10.5% Chromium and less than 1,2% Carbon. Chromium produces a thin layer of oxide on the surface of the steel known as the 'passive layer'. This prevents any further corrosion of the surface. Increasing the amount of Chromium gives an increased resistance to corrosion.

Stainless steel also contains varying amounts of Carbon, Silicon and Manganese. Other elements such as Nickel and Molybdenum may be added to impart other useful properties such as enhanced formability and increased corrosion resistance.

When was stainless steel discovered?

There is a widely held view that stainless steel was discovered in 1913 by Sheffield metallurgist Harry Brearley. He was experimenting with different types of steel for weapons and noticed that a 13% Chromium steel had not corroded after several months.

What is stainless steel used for?

Stainless steels of various kinds are used in thousands of applications. The following gives a flavour of the full range:

Domestic cutlery, sinks, saucepans, washing machine drums, microwave oven liners, razor blades

Architectural/Civil Engineering cladding, handrails, door and window fittings, street furniture, structural sections, reinforcement bar, lighting columns, lintels, masonry supports

Transport exhaust systems, car trim/grilles, road tankers, ship containers, ships chemical tankers, refuse vehicles

Chemical/Pharmaceutical pressure vessels, process piping.

Oil and Gas platform accommodation, cable trays, subsea pipelines.

Medical Surgical instruments, surgical implants, MRI scanners.

Food and Drink Catering equipment, brewing, distilling, food processing.

Water Water and sewage treatment, water tubing, hot water tanks.

General springs, fasteners (bolts, nuts and washers), wire.