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What Exactly Is Stainless Steel & Why Does It Matter?

Before working for a processing equipment manufacturer, I had no idea what stainless steel really was. I had heard the term plenty, and had stainless steel appliances in my home, but if asked, I would have had no idea what makes it special or unique.

Steel was first used during the iron age, with the oldest examples dating back to nearly 2,000 B.C. Steel itself consists of raw Iron Ore, Carbon and trace amounts of impurities that are present during the heating & casting process. It eventually goes on to replace Bronze as the world’s most widely used material for tools and weaponry. This was due to the strength and flexibility, which steel offered in droves compared to the alternatives. The advent of steel helped propel the Homo Sapiens species out of the bronze age and closer to the modern industrial world we live in today.
1- Schifman, Jonatha. July 9, 2018. “The Entire History Of Steel.” Popular Mechanics.
February 7, 2022.

In 1908, nearly 4,000 years later, an English scientist named Albert Portevin set out to create the world’s first erosion proof metal alloy. He was never able to create an alloy resistant to erosion, however he created stainless steel in his efforts. He did this by adding a small amount of Chromium during the melting process, creating an alloy that was harder and more corrosion resistant than traditional steel.
2- “The Discovery Of Stainless Steel.” British Stainless-Steel Association.
February 7, 2022.

Stainless steel contains as much as 10% chromium, which reacts with the oxygen in the steel’s environment to form a hard, thin layer that protects the steel from corrosion by preventing the oxygen from seeping in any deeper and reacting with the iron in it”.
3- Peshin, Akash. January 22, 2022 “What Makes Stainless Steel ‘Stainless’?.” Science ABC.
February 7, 2022.

Chromium naturally reacts to oxygen in the air and this reaction is what makes stainless steel possible. That thin protect layer creates and aseptic environment, which will discourage bacteria from festering. In environments where oxygen is lacking, the chromium won’t have any oxygen to react with and the steel will eventually rust. Lucky for the residents of earth, the atmosphere currently supplies enough oxygen for chromium to do its thing.

The arrival of Stainless Steel completely transformed processing world. Having a strong, flexible material that is mostly corrosion and rust proof allowed for tremendous possibilities! Within the food & beverage world alone, stainless steel can be found in nearly every processing facility. Contact CSC

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