Stainless steel is becoming increasingly popular in fields as different as construction, dentistry andthe automotive industry. This is due to its many advantageous properties, including corrosion resistance and durability. But before we find out how stainless steel behaves, we must exploreexactly what this material is.
What is stainless steel?
Steel is an alloy of iron and carbon, where carbon is found in a percentage of less than 2%. Like other ferrous metals, steel oxidizes when it comes into contact with oxygen, forming ferrous oxide and acquiring the characteristic reddish color that we all know as rust. Objects made from this material deteriorate and lose their original attractive appearance.
To avoid this, we have to add a new element to the mix: chromium. Chromium reacts with oxygen to form a layer of chromium oxide, known as a passive layer, which is impermeable and prevents the reaction between oxygen and iron. In this way, atmospheric corrosion is prevented and the object we have manufactured will not rust.
For this to happen, the mixture must have a minimum of 10.5% chromium, and may contain other components, such as nickel, silicon or aluminium, resulting in multiple types of stainless steel.
What are the main properties of stainless steel?
Although there are differences between the various types of stainless steel, they all share a number of characteristics:
- High resistance: As we have seen before, one of the main characteristics of stainless steel is its high resistance to atmospheric corrosion and oxidation. In addition, it is also resistant tohigh temperatures and humidity.
- Durability: Due to its ability to withstand the physical and chemical conditions that it is exposed to, stainless steel is a very durable material. While steel begins to deteriorate after 15 to 20 years, stainless steel can last more than 60 years before this process begins.
- Hardness: Stainless steel is highly resistant to abrasive agents and does not scratch. The more carbon in the mixture, the harder the material.
- Ductility: If worked in the right way, stainless steel can be easily formed without breaking, allowing for many different shapes and finishes.
- Toughness: Stainless steel is very shock resistant. It can absorb a great deal of energy in an impact without breaking.
- Sustainability: All stainless steels are recyclable and very valuable because of their chromium and nickel content. Generally, modern stainless steels are manufactured from 60% recycled material.
- Hygienic: Due to its composition and low roughness, external agents such as dust and bacteria do not easily stick to its surface, making it easy to clean with traditional cleaning products.
- Aesthetic. Stainless steel has a modern and elegant finish.
Main applications of stainless steel
All these characteristics increase the demand for stainless steel in different areas of activity, some mentioned above. Let’s see some examples:
- Medical Technology: Due to its ease of cleaning and low corrosion, stainless steel is widely used in environments where clean and sterile instruments are required, for example, in the production of implants and surgical and dental instruments.
- Automotive and transportation: Since Ford introduced stainless steel to the automotive industry in the 1930s, it has been used to produce a wide variety of parts, including exhaust pipes, grills and moldings. In recent years, it has also been used to manufacture structural components.
- Building construction: Due to its strength and flexibility, stainless steel has become a key element in the construction sector. It is often used inside for worktops, shelves and railings, and also externally for building cladding.
- Food: In the food and catering industry, stainless steel is used to make kitchen accessories and cutlery. Utensils such as knives are made from less ductile grades of stainless steel, while more ductile grades are used to make grills, cookers, pans and sinks.
In short, this material is very useful because of its many practical and beneficial characteristics, making it a great ally in many industries.
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