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Steel

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Victoria Liss
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« on: November 18, 2010, 01:20:51 pm »

Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, but various other alloying elements are used, such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten.[1] Carbon and other elements act as a hardening agent, preventing dislocations in the iron atom crystal lattice from sliding past one another. Varying the amount of alloying elements and the form of their presence in the steel (solute elements, precipitated phase) controls qualities such as the hardness, ductility, and tensile strength of the resulting steel. Steel with increased carbon content can be made harder and stronger than iron, but such steel is also less ductile than iron.

Alloys with a higher than 2.1% carbon content are known as cast iron because of their lower melting point and castability.[1] Steel is also distinguishable from wrought iron, which can contain a small amount of carbon, but it is included in the form of slag inclusions. Two distinguishing factors are steel's increased rust resistance and better weldability.

Though steel had been produced by various inefficient methods long before the Renaissance, its use became more common after more-efficient production methods were devised in the 17th century. With the invention of the Bessemer process in the mid-19th century, steel became an inexpensive mass-produced material. Further refinements in the process, such as basic oxygen steelmaking (BOS), further lowered the cost of production while increasing the quality of the metal. Today, steel is one of the most common materials in the world, with more than 1.3 billion tons produced annually. It is a major component in buildings, infrastructure, tools, ships, automobiles, machines, appliances, and weapons. Modern steel is generally identified by various grades defined by assorted standards organizations.

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Victoria Liss
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« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2010, 01:21:37 pm »



The steel cable of a colliery winding tower
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Victoria Liss
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« Reply #2 on: November 18, 2010, 01:22:17 pm »



Iron-carbon phase diagram, showing the conditions necessary to form different phases
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Victoria Liss
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« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2010, 01:22:35 pm »

Iron, like most metals, is found in the Earth's crust only in the form of an ore, i.e., combined with other elements such as oxygen or sulfur.[2] Typical iron-containing minerals include Fe2O3—the form of iron oxide found as the mineral hematite, and FeS2—pyrite (fool's gold).[3] Iron is extracted from ore by removing oxygen and combining the ore with a preferred chemical partner such as carbon. This process, known as smelting, was first applied to metals with lower melting points, such as tin, which melts at approximately 250 °C (482 °F) and copper, which melts at approximately 1,000 °C (1,830 °F). In comparison, cast iron melts at approximately 1,370 °C (2,500 °F). All of these temperatures could be reached with ancient methods that have been used since the Bronze Age. Since the oxidation rate itself increases rapidly beyond 800 °C, it is important that smelting take place in a low-oxygen environment. Unlike copper and tin, liquid iron dissolves carbon quite readily. Smelting results in an alloy (pig iron) containing too much carbon to be called steel.[4] The excess carbon and other impurities are removed in a subsequent step.

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« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2010, 01:22:47 pm »

Other materials are often added to the iron/carbon mixture to produce steel with desired properties. Nickel and manganese in steel add to its tensile strength and make austenite more chemically stable, chromium increases hardness and melting temperature, and vanadium also increases hardness while reducing the effects of metal fatigue. To prevent corrosion, at least 11% chromium is added to steel so that a hard oxide forms on the metal surface; this is known as stainless steel. Tungsten interferes with the formation of cementite, allowing martensite to form with slower quench rates, resulting in high speed steel. On the other hand, sulfur, nitrogen, and phosphorus make steel more brittle, so these commonly found elements must be removed from the ore during processing.[5]

The density of steel varies based on the alloying constituents, but usually ranges between 7.75 and 8.05 g/cm3 (0.280–0.291 lb/in3).[6]

Even in the narrow range of concentrations which make up steel, mixtures of carbon and iron can form a number of different structures, with very different properties. Understanding such properties is essential to making quality steel. At room temperature, the most stable form of iron is the body-centered cubic (BCC) structure α-ferrite. It is a fairly soft metallic material that can dissolve only a small concentration of carbon, no more than 0.021 wt% at 723 °C (1,333 °F), and only 0.005% at 0 °C (32 °F). If the steel contains more than 0.021% carbon then it transforms into a face-centered cubic (FCC) structure, called austenite or γ-iron. It is also soft and metallic but can dissolve considerably more carbon, as much as 2.1%[7] carbon at 1,148 °C (2,098 °F), which reflects the upper carbon content of steel.[8
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« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2010, 01:23:17 pm »

When steels with less than 0.8% carbon, known as a hypoeutectoid steel, are cooled from an austenitic phase the mixture attempts to revert to the ferrite phase, resulting in an excess of carbon. One way for carbon to leave the austenite is for cementite to precipitate out of the mix, leaving behind iron that is pure enough to take the form of ferrite, resulting in a cementite-ferrite mixture. Cementite is a hard and brittle intermetallic compound with the chemical formula of Fe3C. At the eutectoid, 0.8% carbon, the cooled structure takes the form of pearlite, named after its resemblance to mother of pearl. For steels that have more than 0.8% carbon the cooled structure takes the form of pearlite and cementite.[9]

Perhaps the most important polymorphic form is martensite, a metastable phase which is significantly stronger than other steel phases. When the steel is in an austenitic phase and then quenched it forms into martensite, because the atoms "freeze" in place when the cell structure changes from FCC to BCC. Depending on the carbon content the martensitic phase takes different forms. Below approximately 0.2% carbon it takes an α ferrite BCC crystal form, but higher carbon contents take a body-centered tetragonal (BCT) structure. There is no thermal activation energy for the transformation from austenite to martensite. Moreover, there is no compositional change so the atoms generally retain their same neighbors.[10]

Martensite has a lower density than austenite does, so that transformation between them results in a change of volume. In this case, expansion occurs. Internal stresses from this expansion generally take the form of compression on the crystals of martensite and tension on the remaining ferrite, with a fair amount of shear on both constituents. If quenching is done improperly, the internal stresses can cause a part to shatter as it cools. At the very least, they cause internal work hardening and other microscopic imperfections. It is common for quench cracks to form when water quenched, although they may not always be visible.[11]

[edit] Heat treatment
Main article: Heat treating carbon steel
There are many types of heat treating processes available to steel. The most common are annealing and quenching and tempering. Annealing is the process of heating the steel to a sufficiently high temperature to soften it. This process occurs through three phases: recovery, recrystallization, and grain growth. The temperature required to anneal steel depends on the type of annealing and the constituents of the alloy.[12]

Quenching and tempering first involves heating the steel to the austenite phase, then quenching it in water or oil. This rapid cooling results in a hard and brittle martensitic structure.[10] The steel is then tempered, which is just a specialized type of annealing. In this application the annealing (tempering) process transforms some of the martensite into cementite or spheroidite to reduce internal stresses and defects, which ultimately results in a more ductile and fracture-resistant metal.[13]

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« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2010, 01:23:42 pm »

When iron is smelted from its ore by commercial processes, it contains more carbon than is desirable. To become steel, it must be melted and reprocessed to reduce the carbon to the correct amount, at which point other elements can be added. This liquid is then continuously cast into long slabs or cast into ingots. Approximately 96% of steel is continuously cast, while only 4% is produced as cast steel ingots.[citation needed] The ingots are then heated in a soaking pit and hot rolled into slabs, blooms, or billets. Slabs are hot or cold rolled into sheet metal or plates. Billets are hot or cold rolled into bars, rods, and wire. Blooms are hot or cold rolled into structural steel, such as I-beams and rails. In modern foundries these processes often occur in one assembly line, with ore coming in and finished steel coming out.[14] Sometimes after a steel's final rolling it is heat treated for strength, however this is relatively rare.[15]

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« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2010, 01:24:29 pm »

Contemporary steel

Modern steels are made with varying combinations of alloy metals to fulfill many purposes.[5] Carbon steel, composed simply of iron and carbon, accounts for 90% of steel production.[1] High strength low alloy steel has small additions (usually < 2% by weight) of other elements, typically 1.5% manganese, to provide additional strength for a modest price increase.[47] Low alloy steel is alloyed with other elements, usually molybdenum, manganese, chromium, or nickel, in amounts of up to 10% by weight to improve the hardenability of thick sections.[1] Stainless steels and surgical stainless steels contain a minimum of 11% chromium, often combined with nickel, to resist corrosion (rust). Some stainless steels are magnetic, while others are nonmagnetic.[48]

Some more modern steels include tool steels, which are alloyed with large amounts of tungsten and cobalt or other elements to maximize solution hardening. This also allows the use of precipitation hardening and improves the alloy's temperature resistance.[1] Tool steel is generally used in axes, drills, and other devices that need a sharp, long-lasting cutting edge. Other special-purpose alloys include weathering steels such as Cor-ten, which weather by acquiring a stable, rusted surface, and so can be used un-painted.[49]

Many other high-strength alloys exist, such as dual-phase steel, which is heat treated to contain both a ferritic and martensitic microstructure for extra strength.[50] Transformation Induced Plasticity (TRIP) steel involves special alloying and heat treatments to stabilize amounts of austentite at room temperature in normally austentite-free low-alloy ferritic steels. By applying strain to the metal, the austentite undergoes a phase transition to martensite without the addition of heat.[51] Maraging steel is alloyed with nickel and other elements, but unlike most steel contains almost no carbon at all. This creates a very strong but still malleable metal.[52] Twinning Induced Plasticity (TWIP) steel uses a specific type of strain to increase the effectiveness of work hardening on the alloy.[53] Eglin Steel uses a combination of over a dozen different elements in varying amounts to create a relatively low-cost metal for use in bunker buster weapons. Hadfield steel (after Sir Robert Hadfield) or manganese steel contains 12–14% manganese which when abraded forms an incredibly hard skin which resists wearing. Examples include tank tracks, bulldozer blade edges and cutting blades on the jaws of life.[54]

Most of the more commonly used steel alloys are categorized into various grades by standards organizations. For example, the Society of Automotive Engineers has a series of grades defining many types of steel.[55] The American Society for Testing and Materials has a separate set of standards, which define alloys such as A36 steel, the most commonly used structural steel in the United States.[56]

Though not an alloy, galvanized steel is a commonly used variety of steel which has been hot-dipped or electroplated in zinc for protection against rust.[57]

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