Steel has had a major influence on our lives, the cars we drive, the buildings we work in, the homes in which we live and countless other facets in between. Steel is used in our electricity-power-line towers, natural-gas pipelines, machine tools, military weapons-the list is endless. Steel has also earned a place in our homes in protecting our families, making our lives convenient, its benefits are undoubtedly clear.
Steel is by far the most important, multi-functional and most adaptable of materials. The development of mankind would have been impossible but for steel. The backbone of developed economies was laid on the strength and inherent uses of steel.
The various uses of steel which in turn is a measure of adaptability of steel can be judged from the following characteristics of steel :
- Hot and cold formable
- Suitable machinability
- Hard, tough and wear resistant
- Corrosion resistant
- Heat resistant and resistance to deformation at high temperatures.
Steel compared to other materials of its type has low production costs. The energy required for extracting iron from ore is about 25 % of what is needed for extracting aluminum. Steel is environment friendly as it can be recycled. 5.6 % of element iron is present in earth's crust, representing a secure raw material base . Steel production is 20 times higher as compared to production of all non-ferrous metals put together.
The steel industry has developed new technologies and has strived hard to make the world's strongest and most versatile material even better. There are altogether about 2000 grades of steel developed of which 1500 grades are high grade steels. There is still immense potential for developing new grades of steel with varying properties .The large number of grades gives steel the characteristic of a basic production material Steel has enjoyed an important position in our lives and will continue to do so in the years to come. However, the degree to which it maintains its dominant position will depend on if steel can exploit its potential by developing new higher grades and adaptable grades . This can be achieved by refining the structure and applying alloying techniques and thus furthering its utility value. We will have to find out ways to use steel and be ready to face a stiff competition from Aluminium in the future.