How Stretching and Squeezing Steel Improves Its Strength and Durability
People have been using steel for centuries, but new and improved methods of manufacturing the metal continue to be found. Today’s steel is much stronger, more durable, and lighter than ever before, but new techniques are still being discovered.
One of the newest properties of steel that may help create even stronger material was discovered by professors from the University of North Texas and the University of Wisconsin. Their research has been published in Nature, a scientific journal.
These two professors were studying cementite, one of the components in steel that helps make it so strong, when they make an interesting discovery: cementite actually gets stronger and stiffens up if it’s squeezed and stretched. More research into this unique property may allow the professors to determine new ways of creating steel or even ways of making current steel much stronger.
The journal article drew interesting parallels between cementite and the human body. The cementite, when stretched, reacted in ways very similar to human tissue and blood vessels. Blood vessels, when under pressure, become much harder. Cementite acted the same way, which is very unusual for a metal or an alloy to do. In fact, in many ways, cementite has more in common with biological materials than it does with metals.
It’s very possible, the paper concludes, that this property occurs in some other crystalline materials as well. Again, further research will be necessary to determine which, if any, other metals and materials react the same as cementite. If they do, researchers will then begin looking at new ways in which these materials can be used. Research into just how strong steel can be made via this stretching and squeezing technique will also require further experimentation.
What is known is that by increasing the pressure on the cementite in steel, the metal becomes harder to deform. This technique could be applied to the metals used in buildings and in automobiles to make them much stronger, allowing vehicles to better withstand crashes or buildings to hold up during earthquakes.
Steel continues to be one of the most interesting metals in the world. It has been used for over 3,500 years, yet the industry continues to make advances and discover new properties of steel. The fact that the steel industry continues to evolve after so long is one of the many reasons why steel is one of the most widely used materials in the world today.