Steel has a long history behind it. Being made out of carbon and iron, steel dates all the way back to over 40,000 years ago during the beginning of the Iron Age. Eventually, steel rose into the mainstream when Henry Bessemer created a revolutionizing way to use oxygen to reduce the carbon content in iron. Because of Bessemer, the birth of the modern steel industry was born. To highlight the importance of it, let’s quickly go over the history of steel.
The Industrial Revolution
The mainstream popularity of iron began during the industrial revolution when the United States and Europe transitioned to new manufacturing processes.
Steel was very difficult to make at the time because of how long it took to make the steel itself. However, early on during the industrial revolution, ironmakers learned to turn cast pig iron into a low-carbon content iron.
The reason this is important is that the lower the carbon content is, the melting point increases. Therefore more masses of iron could be made quicker and easier.
Because of this process, “puddling furnaces” popped up to ramp up production to achieve demand. However, this ended up dying because of how brutal it was on labourers.
With the growth of the railroad industry during the 19th century, a ton of pressure was put onto the iron industry. Causing them to come up with innovative ways to meet demand. At the time, steel was the best product available, but it was harder to create and would cause delays because of it.
However, as noted, Henry Bessemer eventually created a process that used oxygen to reduce the carbon content in iron which would then cause steel to be easier made. Thus, causing a massive boom in the industry.
Birth of the Steel Industry
Once this process entered the mainstream, investors realized the importance of it and began investing in it. Two of the main investors included Andrew Carnegie and Charles Schwab who are both heavily responsible for the boom of the steel industry.
As a result, cities expanded and populations increased. Basically, we have massive cities throughout the world that are a direct result of this industry. Pretty wild right?
Different forms of Modern Steelmaking
Since steelmaking is very much in the mainstream today with buildings, it’s important to go over two of the main ways steelmaking is done. Let’s take a look at each one!
- Electric Air Furnace Steelmaking (EAF)
EAFs are great since they can produce steel from scrap or cold ferrous, and is able to produce it in a way which demands less energy. The process works through an electric current that passes through to heat the temperature as high as 3272°F for production. It was first invented by Paul Heroult and makes up around a third of global steel production today.
- Oxygen Steelmaking
Oxygen steelmaking was invented in the 1960s as a way to separate oxygen from nitrogen on a large scale for steel production. It makes about two-thirds of global steel production today.