Q:

Where does stainless steel come from?

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Quick Answer

Stainless steel is composed of iron, carbon and chromium. Modern stainless steel may also contain other elements, such as nickel, niobium, molybdenum and titanium. The elements of nickel, molybdenum, niobium and chromium enhance the corrosion resistance of stainless steel.

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Where does stainless steel come from?
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Full Answer

In 1913, English metallurgist Harry Brearly, who was working on a project to improve rifle barrels, discovered that adding chromium to low carbon steel gives it stain resistance. The addition of a minimum of 12 percent chromium to the steel is what makes it resist rust, or stain "less" compared to other types of steel.

The chromium in the steel combines with the oxygen in the atmosphere to form a thin, invisible layer of chrome-containing oxide, which is called passive film. As the sizes of chromium atoms and their oxides are similar, they pack tightly together on the surface of the metal, forming a stable layer only a few atoms thick.

Austenitic, ferritic and martensitic are the three main types of stainless steel. Austenitic stainless steels have an austenitic crystalline structure, which is a face-centered cubic crystal structure. Ferritic stainless steels have reduced corrosion resistance, due to their lower chromium and nickel content. However, ferritic steels generally have better engineering properties than austenitic grades and are typically more affordable. Martensitic stainless steels are not as corrosion-resistant as austenitic and ferritic steels, but they are extremely strong and can be hardened by heat treatment.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    Does stainless steel contain nickel?

    A:

    Modern stainless steel contains nickel along with other elements, such as molybdenum, niobium and chromium, that help the metal resist corrosion. Nickel is merely one of the key elements that adds to the rust-resistance of steel.

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  • Q:

    What is the difference between chrome and stainless steel?

    A:

    The difference between chrome and stainless steel is that stainless steel is typically made out of a metal alloy without plating (it does contain either nickel or chromium to make it durable), while chrome is made out of a metal core that is plated with a thin chromium overlay. Chrome and stainless steel are both popular choices in hardware and kitchen appliances.

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  • Q:

    What metals are used to make stainless steel?

    A:

    Stainless steel is an alloy containing at least 11.5 percent chromium and at least 50 percent iron. Additional components are nickel, carbon, manganese, silicon and nitrogen. The amount of each component is varied according to the desired use.

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  • Q:

    What is stainless steel made of?

    A:

    The alloy known as stainless steel is comprised primarily of iron combined with a minimum of 10.5 percent chromium. Other metals, such as nickel, molybdenum, titanium or copper, are added to the alloy in small amounts to enhance the strength and toughness of it.

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