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Steel—Through the Pages of History
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Friday, March 16, 2018

Steel has been in use since ancient times when warriors used to ride into battle with heavy armors to protect against attacks. Since then, this valuable metal has come a long way—assisting humans in building artifacts as simple as stationary equipment to gigantic skyscrapers. Commercial steel, however, is an invention of the 19th century. Today the steel industry is worth almost $900 billion and growing with the pace of growing infrastructural development. This valuable metal has been part of human usage for centuries but how exactly has it evolved over the years is an interesting read if one has the urge to gain the knowledge.

Steel is just a modified form of cast iron that has obtained added strength due to an addition of impurities like carbon. For the curious minds, we’ve gathered some interesting points from the journey of steel that began way back in 13th Century BC.

The Romans
Early blacksmiths were the unintentional inventors of steel when they realized that if the iron was left longer in charcoal furnaces, it became harder and tougher than the original. Ancient Roman armies were the first to utilize this newly developed material to forge weapons and armor that could withstand more damage than the earlier forms of iron. The Greek, Persians, and Chinese then followed suit.

The Chinese
These guys have always been on top of the manufacturing pyramid despite having their ups and downs. They are accredited with being the first to mass produce steel during the 3rd Century AD. It is not sure what method they used to produce steel equipment in large quantities however the products they manufactured were unparalleled in quality and standards.

The Iron Pillar of Delhi
Constructed somewhere between the 3rd and 4th Century AD by King Chandragupta Vikramaditya, this 7m pillar located in the Qutb Complex in New Delhi, India is the longest surviving rust-free metal structure on Earth. It is referred to as a symbol of supreme ancient craftsmanship that has not been able to find anything even close till this day.

Modern Steel
Everything has become more efficient and advanced with the advent of time, and the case of steel has been no different. Over the years steel has found so many different applications that the demand has increased substantially as so the processes have evolved too. Modern commercial steel production was introduced by Sir Henry Bessemer in the late 19th Century when he discovered an effective way to lower the carbon content in cast iron to 2% making it more malleable than before.

Today, more than 3500 grades of steel exist depending on the carbon content. Basic oxygen methods produce the majority of the steel, but due to environmental concerns, electric furnaces are rapidly gaining popularity.

The materials and processes that we know today don’t all date back to ancient times, but the ones that do have quite colorful histories that are fun and informative to research. Steel is a good example of one of man’s greatest inventions that has found uses in the hands of ancient Romans and Chinese to modern Americans and Asians.


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