Origin and History of Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is, without a doubt, one of the most important materials brought by the Industrial Revolution. From kitchen pans to pressure vessels in oil refineries, its widespread use shows the importance of a solid and long-lasting material that won't corrode, will remain shiny and can be used in extreme conditions.

How stainless steel was discovered

Stainless steel was invented by English metallurgist Harry Brearley in 1912. As it often happens, the discovery happened while looking for something else. It was the period prior to the First World War, and Brearley was conducting experiments to find a metal alloy that would make firearms more heat resistant.

As a part of the experiments, metals had to be corroded with different chemicals. Brearley found out that, when treated when chrome, steel was much more resistant.

Brearly was not the first one to realise that chrome could make steel stronger, he was however the first one to discover it empirically (rather than with theoretical researches), and to sense the commercial potential behind it.

Stainless thanks to… oxidation

What makes steel stainless is the presence of chrome, that reacts with oxygen, creating an invisible film of chrome oxide, which wraps the steel making it resistant to oxygen and other chemical agents.

Stainless steel has a precise and detailed classification. The most utilised type in our sector is he 316, which contains a chrome, nickel and molybdenum alloy, which makes it particularly resistant to heat and corrosion.

Cividac uses all types of stainless steel, from the most simple AISI 904L or 254 SMO. Geothermal plants mostly use austenitic-ferritic steels, which were developed recently, and are highly corrosion resistant.