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Company News, 2012-04-26, 12:00 PM

100 years of stainless steel: Developed in Krupp’s research labs in Essen and first patented in 1912

Stainless steel is an indispensable part of our everyday lives – at work, at home or at leisure. The foundations for its global use were laid 100 years ago. On October 18, 1912, a patent was granted for the “production of articles requiring high resistance to corrosion”. This was a quantum leap in material research, and it was followed two months later by a patent for the “production of articles requiring high resistance to corrosion through acids and extreme strength”.

After four years of development work in Krupp’s laboratories, the physicist Professor Benno Strauss and his co-worker Dr. Eduard Maurer found the formula for non-rusting steels which are insensitive to water and humidity. The steels in use at that time were either chromium or nickel steels, which were difficult to process and susceptible to corrosion. The addition of specific amounts of chromium and nickel, heat treatment and a reduction in the carbon content resulted in the patented V2A material. This material 1.4301 was the first commercially produced stainless steel and still accounts for more than a third of the stainless steel produced worldwide. These were the origins of the NIROSTA (from the German nichtrostendender Stahl – non-rusting steel) brand, which was registered in 1922. Gradually, the austenitic grades were followed by the development of the other members of the stainless steel family – ferritic, martensitic and duplex grades.

The burgeoning chemical industry of the early 20th century especially needed steels with high resistance to acids, but the new material was also used in the food industry and for household white goods. At the industrial exhibition in Malmö, Sweden in 1914, products of stainless steel were presented to the public for the first time. In 1919 a further patent was granted in the medical field for the “production of artificial internal parts for human and animal bodies made of stainless steel”. The new material also became increasingly popular with architects. The Chrysler Building in New York (built 1928-1930) was the first to feature stainless steel roof cladding, which still shines like on its first day. Stainless steel was also used in the facade of the world’s tallest building, the “Burj Kalifa” in Dubai which was opened in 2010.

Since the 1950s in particular, flat-rolled stainless steel materials have been used wherever high dependability, functionality and hygiene are required. Today, roughly 120 stainless steel grades are available in a variety of sizes and finishes. With different chemical compositions depending on application, they are used in the construction, automotive, medical, pharmaceutical, food, energy and chemical industries as well as in environmental and marine engineering. Global annual demand for stainless steel increased tenfold from three to 30 million tons between 1970 and 2010. Stainless steel is also 100% recyclable and therefore highly sustainable. A future without stainless steel would be inconceivable.

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