Steel is an alloy (a mixture of different metals) which has a high mixture of iron in it. This makes steel stronger than most metals, even iron.
They also have carbon mixed in, and when the steel has a high amount of carbon, they are called ‘cast iron’.
The history of steel dates back to Asia, especially India and Sri Lanka, where the natives were making steel by hand more than 2000 years ago.
It was very expensive and used mainly to make weapons like swords and knives.
Over the centuries, as man advanced, many changes were made to the way steel was produced, making it cheaper and easier to do.
Steel is very hard, and strong, yet flexible (bends without breaking), has a magnetic quality, and can be moulded even into thin wires. On the other hand, steel corrodes easily.
There are three essential types of steel, the carbon steel which is the most common is a simple alloy but needs to be painted or it will rust easily.
Stainless steel is another type, which is great, as it does not rust as easily as steel, and is used mainly for constructing buildings and vehicles, even planes and trains.
Galvanized steel is steel that is coated with zinc, to prevent it from rusting up.
During the Industrial Revolution, making cheap steal was especially regular, and today the most common way of making steel is by a process called ‘oxygen steelmaking’.
The process of oxygen steelmaking is quite simple. Liquid iron (called pig iron) is poured into a large vessel called the converter. Other scrap metals are added to balance the heat.
Then oxygen is blown into the iron so that it burns any remaining carbons and impurities. Carbon is added until whatever the balance of carbons and irons are met.
Then this liquid steel is tapped off and either put into moulds of different shapes, sizes and weights, or rolled into sheets, slaps or beams to be shipped to commercial outlets.
Today, steel is manufactures in huge buildings called ‘steel mills’ and unlike in the olden days, heavy duty machinery is used in the production process.
Steel is not very expensive today and is mostly used for the construction of buildings, railways, highways and machines.
The transport industry heavily relies on steel because almost all the ships and cars are made from steel.
You would also find steel forks and knives lying around your own home, and even stationery such as rulers.
Since steel is combination of metal, when it is no longer useful, this steel scrap is melted or broken down, and reshaped into a new object.
Steel is an extremely recyclable metal, so wastage hardly ever happens. It can be used and reused many times over.