How Well Do You Know Steel?
We’ve all seen Superman, or the Man of Steel, taking on villains and saving the world on the big screen. Tough and (almost) indestructible, the superhero is a symbol of strength and endurance. But what about steel in real life? What traits and personality would the alloy have if it’s a person?
Steel is produced by combining refined iron with around one percent carbon. By adding other alloying elements, such as nickel and manganese, we can produce steel with a wide-range of qualities and characteristics. Due to its versatility, steel is one of the most popular materials in the world today. According to the World Steel Association, the amount of the alloy we used in 2017 equals to about 214kg per capita.
Each year, Samsung C&T’s Trading and Investment Group handles around 5,000,000 tons of steel products, providing the indispensable alloy to diverse industries around the world. Let’s take a closer look at the key characteristics of steel.
Just like Superman, steel is extremely strong. With the carbon content reduced, and other metals added depending on the type of steel, the alloy is much stronger than iron. While the Ultimate Tensile Strength (UTS) of cast iron 200MPa, the UTS of stainless steel is 860MPa.
The strength of steel makes it the perfect material for producing protective components in cars. The alloy is used for a car’s safety cage, while steel beams are installed in car doors to minimize the impact of collision. And to better protect passengers, safety buckles are also made of the strong alloy. Samsung C&T’s Otelinox plant in Romania and the Precision Stainless Steel factory in Pinghu, China produces many of these parts for the automotive industry.
Rust – it’s steel’s one Achilles heel. If untreated, the alloy is prone to corrosion. But with a bit of help, steel can transform into one of the most durable materials. Just ask the Russian archaeologists who unearthed a crucible steel sword that dates to the 1200s.
Coating steel with zinc is one method to improve its durability. Known as galvanization, the zinc coating prevents rust by keeping moisture and other corroding elements away from the steel. Another method to prevent rusting is by passing an electrical current through steel, a process called Cathodic Protection.
Thanks to its durability, steel is a key material for pipelines. Samsung C&T’s Trading Group distributes steel pipeline products around the world to ensure energy sources crucial for our daily life can reach their destinations safely.
What is the most recycled material in the world? The answer is steel. In 2014, the alloy’s recycling rate stood at 86 percent. And 600 steel cans are recycled every second.
Producing new steel requires natural resources and energy. As a result of the reaction of carbon with iron oxide in the blast furnace as well as the electricity required, steel plants can emit 1.6-2.4 tons of CO2 per ton of steel produced. Water consumption, meanwhile, is around 28.1 to 28.6 m3 per tonne of steel produced.
Thanks to steel’s unique characteristics, it can be recycled without losing strength. Compared to producing new steel, reusing discarded steel can reduce CO2 emission by 80 percent, reduce water consumption by 40 percent and water pollution by 76 percent.
Have you ever wondered why steel features so prominently in the kitchen and hospitals? From cutlery to the tools your dentist you uses, the alloy can be found in places where hygiene matters.
Cleaning stainless steel is as easy as cleaning china or glass. What’s more, the alloy can withstand different cleaning methods without loss of properties. Apart from producing steel for industrial use, the Otelinox plant also manufactures many stainless-steel products we use daily.
Steel is not just a material that’s impressive on the inside. It also has a strikingly distinctive appearance. On top of that, the alloy can be welded and crafted into different shapes, making it a favorite among artists for building large-scale sculptures. Jeff Koon’s playful Balloon Dog and Antony Gormley’s surreal Angel of the North in Tyne and Wear are some of the most notable artworks made of steel.