Since its invention in 1913, stainless steel has been one of the most versatile and useful metals available for a number of different purposes. From the use of stainless steel in surgical areas and storage tanks to skyscrapers and other large buildings, this high-quality metal is used for items large and small – and you’re regularly surrounded by stainless steel items, whether you know it or not.
At Wasatch Steel, we’re happy to offer a huge range of steel products and steel services, including stainless steel tubing and several other stainless steel varieties. We’re experts on this high-quality steel and its numerous applications – including some you may not have considered. Here’s a primer on a few of the unique qualities of stainless steel you may not have been aware of, plus some of its most versatile applications, both in construction areas and in several others.
First and foremost, not only is stainless steel recyclable, it’s actually one of the single most commonly-recycled materials on the planet. Nearly 90% of the world’s stainless steel is recycled, per the American Iron and Steel Institute – in fact, did you realize that a high percentage of steel available in the world today was originally made from ancient steel that’s been recycled?
On top of this, we’re proud to be part of a steel industry that’s highly cognizant of recycling themes when it comes to stainless steel. Our industry recycles steel byproducts, for instance, such as mill scale, steel slags and liquid processing elements. Even steelmaking dust can be recovered, along with steel sludge – these are often used to create other metals entirely, such as zinc or other alloys. For those who are interested in being as eco-friendly as possible for all their metal needs, stainless steel is among your very best options.
In most cases, including some scenarios you’ve probably seen before, stainless steel is a non-magnetic material. For instance, when it’s used to construct large buildings, non-magnetic types are almost always used, with certain small exceptions.
However, it’s possible for stainless steel to have magnetic qualities. The microstructure of stainless steel can divide it into five groups: Austenitic, martensitic, ferritic, duplex and precipitation hardening. The ferritic structure format allows for magnetic qualities through the addition of chromium to the structure. So in certain settings, if needed, this metal can easily be magnetic and serve related purposes.
In most cases, for understandable reasons, we hear the term “stainless steel” and immediately think of large structures. After all, there’s a reason this metal is so synonymous with skyscrapers and other huge structures – it’s ideal for their construction.
However, it should be noted that this is far from the extent of the use of this versatile, ductile metal. This ductility is important: It means the metal can be drawn into a thin wire without any loss of toughness, and woven into various fabrics or patterns that can actually be worn by people. For this reason, there are several other materials commonly created from stainless steel, such as steel mesh or steel clothing that will be thermal in nature and resistant to radiation.
These kinds of products are used in numerous applicable areas today. For instance, stainless steel clothing is often worn by those who work in the electrical field, or by those who are employed in textiles. Stainless steel thread is often used in the technology realm as well, such as for touchscreen gloves that utilize electrical conductivity. Certain companies have even been known to weave stainless steel fibers into their carpets, protecting from static electricity and limiting any shock risks.
There’s an entire industry in this realm that many people aren’t really aware of, and the versatility of stainless steel is what allows this to be possible.
While stainless steel does have many properties that other steels or metals don’t, it’s also similar to them in some ways. One that’s worth noting, but that some seem to gloss over in certain situations: Stainless steel absolutely can expand and contract based on temperature concerns.
When manufacturing stainless steel for a building, for instance, construction contractors must take heat development into account. Consider the world-famous Eiffel Tower in France, which is made largely from stainless steel: During the summer, the tower is about 984 feet tall, excluding its antenna. But during the colder days of winter in France, the tower is about six inches shorter than this, entirely due to the contraction of the stainless steel during colder temperatures. As you can see, stainless steel is impacted less here than some other metals – but it’s still impacted to a small degree, and those working with it should be aware of this.
Finally, our last unique quality of stainless steel is a curiosity that shocks many people when they hear about it for the first time: Did you know that this metal is actually used to create a type of soap?
We’re not kidding. Stainless steel bars that have been shaped like soap are known to effectively remove extreme odors from your hands or any other part of your skin. It’s important to note that these bars will not remove bacteria or germs like a normal soap, but is only used purely for the odor removal qualities. It’s often used after handling garlic, fish or onion; you simply rub the bar on your hands and poof, the smell will vanish. This is likely due to the way substances in stainless steel bind to sulfur compounds and limit odors.
For more on the versatile, unique uses of stainless steel, or to learn about any of our steel products or services, speak to the staff at Wasatch Steel today.