Stainless steel’s history

The inventor of stainless steel is Harry Brearley and was born in Sheffield, England, in 1871.

Have already established his reputation for solving metallurgical problems, Brearley was given the opportunity in 1908 to set up the Brown Firth Laboratories, which were financed by the two leading Sheffield steel companies of the day. This was a highly innovative idea for its time; research for its own sake on the problems of steel making.

In 1912 Brearley was therefore looking for a steel with better resistance to erosion, not corrosion. As a line of investigation he decided to experiment with steels containing chromium, as these were known to have a higher melting point than ordinary steels. Chromium steels were already at that time being used for valves are lighter than their carbon steel counterpartes, another reason why they were adopted so quickly by the emerging aircraft industry. Iron has an atomic weight of 56, chromium 52, so chromium steel valves are lighter than their carbon steel counterparts, another reason why they were adopted so quickly by the emerging aircraft industry.

The First World War largely put a halt to the development of stainless steel, but in the early 1920s a whole variety of chromium and nickel combinations were tried. Brearley fell out with his employers regarding the patent rights to his invention of stainless steel, and he left to join another Sheffield company, Brown Bayleys. His successor at the Brown Firth Laboratories was Dr W.H. Hatfield, who is credited with the invention in 1924 of 18/8 stainless steel (18% chromium, 8% nickel) which, with various additions, still dominates the melting of stainless steel today.

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