Where does stainless steel come from?
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Q:

Where does stainless steel come from?

A:

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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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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    Does stainless steel tarnish?

    A:

    Stainless steel does not tarnish. It does not oxidize as well. Stainless steel has become more popular in body jewelry due to its hypo-allergenic finish and non-reactive surface.

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    Stainless steel can usually be cleaned using warm water, states About.com. Tougher dirt sometimes requires a mild detergent. Glass cleaner works on fingerprints, while stainless steel cleaner is generally recommended for scratched or stained surfaces. Stainless steel should only be cleaned when it's cool to the touch, notes Bob Vila.

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    Stainless steel is manufactured by mining chromite, converting the chromite to ferrochrome, melting the ferrochrome down with several other elements and putting the melted slabs through several temperature-regulation procedures. To be considered stainless steel, the final product must contain at least 11.5 percent chromium.

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    What is stainless steel made of?

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    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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