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Facts about Stainless Steel

Updated on August 29, 2013
Stainless Steel
Stainless Steel

What is Stainless Steel?

According to the British Stainless Steel Association (BSSA), Stainless Steel is a term developed in the development of this steel for cutlery use and has since been adopted as a generic name for a wide range of steels.

Technically Stainless Steel are iron alloys that have a minimum of 10.5% chromium content, other metal alloys such as nickel, titanium and copper are added to enhance the structure of the metals and add other sought after properties such as strength and toughness.

Useful Facts about Stainless Steel

  • Stainless steel is also known as inox steel or inox from the French ‘inoxydable’
  • Stainless steel does not readily corrode, rust or stain with water like ordinary steel does
  • Despite popular believe, stainless steel is not fully stain proof, especially in environments where there is low oxygen, high salinity and poor circulation
  • Stainless steel is not a very good conductor of electricity
  • Some stainless steels can be magnetic, but not all
  • Low maintenance metal

Stainless Steel Cutlery
Stainless Steel Cutlery

The History and Beginnings of Stainless Steel

Stainless steel was first defined by Harry Brearley in 1911 but it is believed to have been used before then but due to the mix of other alloys in the metal it was classed as other metals.

The metal was originally used purely for cutlery between 1913 and 1919 and was known as rust-less steel until a marketing ploy by a sales manager saw it changed to stainless steel. It was not initially accepted into mainstream society and its inventor was referred to as the ‘knife that would not cut’. The metal was used just for cutlery initially due to the fact that when Brearley was testing the metal to see whether it was resistant to chemical attacks and found that it did not corrode when in contact with highly acidic foods such as lemon juice and vinegar.

Before the great depression hit America in 1929, 25,000 tons of stainless steel was manufactured and sold in the USA.

Since then the metal started to be used in construction such as in the Chrysler State building in New York and in transportation vehicles such as trains and plane engines. In fact when Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay conquered Mount Everest in 1953 their oxygen containers were in fact crafted from stainless steel.

How Stainless Steel is Made

The Thames Barrier, London
The Thames Barrier, London

How Stainless Steel is Used Today

Stainless steel has many uses. The metal alloy is milled into coils, sheets, plates, bars, wire and tubing to be used in...

  • Cookware
  • Cutlery
  • Razor Blades
  • Household hardware
  • Oil Rigs
  • Surgical Instruments such as scalpels
  • Jewellery
  • Major Appliances
  • Ammunition
  • Industrial Equipment
  • Swiss Army Knife

It is also used in automotive and aerospace products and for construction material in large buildings, sculptures and bridges, such as the Thames Barrier. The dome of St Paul’s Cathedral in London is held together by a stainless steel reinforcement chain and the top 88 meters of the Chrysler Building in New York is clad in stainless steel. This is the reason why the top of the Chrysler Building continues to shine brightly despite having only been cleaned twice in its entire lifetime.

Often storage tanks and tankers used to transport food are made of stainless steel because of its corrosion resistance. There is heavy use of stainless steel in commercial kitchens and food processing plants as it can be steam cleaned and sterilised without needing paints or other surface finishes.

Chrysler Building, New York
Chrysler Building, New York

The Recyclable Properties of Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is 100% recyclable and in fact the average stainless steel object is made up of around 60% recycled materials.

According to the International Resource Panel’s Metal Stocks in Society Report, stainless steel use is around 80-180kg per capita in more developed countries and around 15kg in less developed countries.

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      Stainless Steel 3 years ago

      Lots of information about uses and the composition of metal