Look around you: from the simplest tools such as sewing needles to the largest structures such as skyscrapers, trains, and bridges, steel is found virtually everywhere around the world in daily life. Which begs the question: what is steel and why is its use so widespread?
While many people recognise the numerous applications of steel, very few understand its chemical composition and how it lends itself to a variety of uses. Continue reading to gain some insight into steel's chemical make-up and standout properties.
Steel: is it a metal or a non-metal?
A common misconception that many people have regarding steel is that it is a metal. Steel is not a metal: it's an alloy of iron that's made by combining iron with carbon and other metals such as titanium, manganese, nickel, cobalt, and more.
Because steel can contain different percentages of iron, carbon, and other metals, all steel is not created equal. The four main types of steel are:
Carbon steel: has a dull, matte-like appearance. Available as low, medium, and high carbon steel, with high containing the highest percentage of carbon and providing the most strength.
Stainless steel: has a shiny appearance. Resistant to corrosion and can be easily moulded into almost any desired shape.
Alloy steel: contains different percentages of alloying elements. This type of steel is made for unique applications that require the use of steel that offers properties that other types of steel do not provide.
Tool steel: combined with other elements to achieve maximum strength and durability. Ideal for making metal tools.
Each type of steel has unique chemical and physical properties that affect how it can be used.
Why is steel one of the most widely used materials around the world?
While individual types of steel have specific properties that influence how they can be utilised, all steels boast the following advantages:
High strength: steel can endure heavy structural loads without getting deformed or distorted.
High durability: steel can last for several decades before requiring a replacement.
High versatility: steel has many practical uses in today's industrial world, thanks to its high ductility and malleability.
Recyclability: steel can be fully recycled without losing its initial strength and other qualities.
Need steel supplies for an upcoming project? Not all steel is created equal, so there's no 'one-size-fits-all' steel product for everyone. To explore your options, speak to the experts at a steel fabrication company near you.