History of steelmaking

Steel was known in antiquity, and may have been produced by managing bloomeries – iron-smelting facilities – so that the bloom contained carbon. Steel is mentioned in the Bible : Jeremiah 15:12 of the Authorized King James Verion, it reads: “Shall iron break the northern iron and the steel?” However, it seems the Hebrews had no word for “steel”.

The earliest known production of steel is a piece of ironware excavated from an archaeological site in Anatolia and is about 4000 years old. Other ancient steel comes from East Africa, dating back to 1400BC. In the 4th century BC steel weapons like the Falcata were produced in the Iberian Peninsula, while Noric steel was used by the Roman military. The Chinese of the Warring States (403 – 221BC) had quench hardened steel, while Chinese of the Han Dynasty (202 – 220AD) created steel by melting together wrought iron with cast iron, gaining an ultimate product of a carbon-intermediate steel by the 1st century AD.

Woots steel and Damascus steel

Evidence of the earliest production of high carbon steel in the Indian Subcontinent was found in Samanalawewa area in Sri Lanka. Wootz steel was produced in India by about 300 BC. Along with their original methods of forging steel, the Chinese had also adopted the production methods of creating Wootz steel, an idea imported into China from India by the 5th century AD. This early steel-making method in Sri Lanka employed the unique use of a wind furnace, blown by the monsoon winds and producing almost pure steel. Also known as Damascus steel, wootz is famous for its durability and ability to hold an edge. It was originally created from a number of different materials including various trace elements. It was essentially a complicated alloy with iron as its main component. Recent studies have suggested that carbon nanotubes were included in its structure, which might explain some of its legendary qualities, though given the technology available at that time, they were produced by chance rather than by design. Natural wind was used where the soil containing iron was heated up with the use of wood. The ancient Sinhalese managed to extract a ton of steel for every 2 tons of soil, a remarkable feat at the time. One such furnace was found in Samanalawewa and archaeologist were able to produce steel as the ancients did long ago.

Crucible steel, formed by slowly heating and cooling pure iron and carbon (typically in the form of charcoal) in a crucible, was produced in Merv by the 9th to 10th centry AD. In the 11th century, there is evidence of the production of steel in Song China using two techniques: a “berganesque” method that produced inferior, inhomogeneous steel and a precursor to the modern Bessemer process that utilized partial decarbonization via repeated forging under a cold blast.

15 Fun Facts About Steel

  • For every ton of steel recycled, 2500 pounds of iron ore, 1400 pounds of coal and 120 pounds of limestone are conserved
  • Steel products can be recycled repeatedly without less of strength
  • Recycling steel saves the equivalent energy to power about 18 million households for a year
  • When you buy steel, you’re always buying recycled
  • Since the first Earth Day in 1970, the steel companies in North America have invested more than $7.5 billion in capital equipment for the control of water and air pollution and the treatment of solid waste.
  • The amount of energy needed to produce a ton of steel has been reduced by 34% since 1972.
  • $10 billion has been invested to create a New Steel that is better for the environment
  • Steel parts are more dent-resistant and are up to 30 percent stronger than they were a decade ago.
  • The first steel-made automobile was introduced in 1918.
  • Over half of all types of steels present in today’s automobiles did not even exist 10 years ago.
  • It takes more than 40 trees to build a wood –framed home. A steel-framed home – eight recycled cars.
  • Steel doors can provide up to 10 times more protection against intruders than wooden doors.
  • 83 000 tons of steel was needed for the Golden Gate Bridge. Only half of that would be needed now.
  • Steel was first used for skyscrapers in 1883.
  • The New Steel makes it possible to build a high-rise building with at least 3% less steel than 20 years ago.