Today steel inspires interest and attention around the world. Many nations maintain thriving steel industries. But this amazing metal also provides an intriguing subject for trivia enthusiasts. Just consider these five fun and fascinating things about steel:
- A Complex Metal
Chemists classify steel as a solid solution. Yes, as incredible as this sounds to many people, steel represents just one type of solution: a solidified one! Just like some other metals formed from several ingredients, it consists of an alloy of a metal with other elements. In the case of steel, typically iron mixes with a small quantity of carbon to produce greater flexibility and tensile strength. Since iron combines well in many alloys, variety exists.
- Working to Perfect Steel
Manufacturers today can produce steel 1,000 times stronger than iron. According to educators in New Zealand, the addition of variable amounts of carbon to steel produces this property. In previous centuries, steel producers struggled to find a commercially viable way to control the amount of carbon added to melted iron in order to generate steel. Before 1856, technology did not really exist to guarantee that when someone fired up a furnace to smelt iron, adding charcoal to the mixture would create a commercially viable, consistent product. The quality of steel proved so poor during the early 1800s that railroad workers sometimes replaced train tracks every few months. Heavy locomotive engines wore down and damaged the wrought iron rails.
- Steel Transforming the World
Steel changed the skylines of cities around the world. A Victorian engineer from England named Sir Henry Bessemer (1813-1898) developed the first furnace capable of mass-producing high quality steel in 1856. His invention sparked a tidal wave of excitement among industrialists. By using the “Bessemer converter”, for the first time they could afford to market steel on a widespread scale. Refinements to the process of producing steel soon followed, and by the end of the century heavy steel beams had become a fixture in many city buildings, allowing the construction of towering “sky scraper” buildings for the first time. Probably few metals ever impacted the way human beings reside and work in urban areas so significantly.
- A Promising Future
Some 3-D printers use steel. In June, 2015, a Dutch startup called MX3D announced an innovative proposal to develop the first 3-D steel printed bridge. This idea eventually could revolutionize the construction of some important structures at great heights. Under the plan, massive robotic steel arms will weld a steel support structure in place. The proposed first bridge won’t extend very far, however: it outlines an attractive pedestrian foot bridge across a canal in Amsterdam.
- Steel For Many Purposes
Steel comprises part of the tallest cowboy boot sculpture in the world, not leather. A gigantic pair of footwear crafted from steel stands proudly outside the North Star Mall in downtown San Antonio, Texas where it advertises the diversity of this alloy. Bob Wade reportedly fabricated the 35 feet 3 inches high by 9 foot wide work.
From industrial applications to soaring buildings to high tech projects and works of art, steel matters! This exceedingly functional material played a very important role in the advent of modern society. It appears likely to remain significant in the future also.
Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who writes for Federal Steel Supply, Inc., a leading supplier of steel pipe and carbon steel pipe.