Overcoming The Battle Of Brittle Steel With Innovative Technology

stainless steelFor years making stainless steel good enough to use in areas such as construction has been a bit of a balancing act. While the added component of carbon puts the strength into steel it also makes it brittle. Too much carbon for example and the product breaks rather than bends. Alternatively, too little and it simply won’t be strong enough for the job in hand.

In the 1970’s a team of scientists from the Soviet Union thought they’d cracked it by adding aluminium. However despite the aluminium enhanced steel being both stronger and more lightweight than its predecessors, it still remained brittle.

After much scratching of heads and many years later scientists realised that when aluminium was added to iron to form steel, small atoms became fused together. When they did they formed tough crystalline structures known as B2. Collectively it’s these structures which make the steel brittle.

So how could this be overcome?

Around five years ago Korean based scientists came up with a process known as insulation. The idea being that the B2 crystals that formed in the steel when aluminium were added, could somehow be separated, and dispersed, within the steel itself. Once dispersed through the metal structure, it was thought that the surrounding alloy would prevent (or insulate) the B2 crystals from splintering when tensile pressure was applied; as it’s the splintering of the B2 crystals that causes steel to break rather than bend. That was the theory anyway. The trick now was how to actually achieve it.

The team spent several years devising a method to be able to heat, treat, and thinly roll stainless steel so that they could control exactly where and when these B2 crystals were formed. During the process they discovered that by adding a tiny percentage of nickel, it made the B2 form at much higher temperatures, giving then even more control over the end result. That end result was a strength to weight ratio that matched that of the very best titanium alloys available.

So it’s all good right?

Well not exactly! You see, mass-produced steel used in the construction industry uses a silicate layer to prevent it from oxidisation in the foundry. However this method of protection can’t be used on the new stronger material because it reacts with the cooling aluminium, thus compromising the end product. So before we can start to construct skyscrapers out of ‘super-steel’ there needs to be a way of overcoming this issue, and that is something that’s currently being worked on.

If you have a steel project in mind then at Metro Steel we specialise in fast turnaround steel products using experienced fabricators. In essence if it’s made from metal and you can imagine it, then we can build it. Give us a call on 07 3204 1000 to see just how we can help you