Did you know? We have collected some information and fun facts around steel and metals.


Ferrous metallurgy involves processes and alloys based on iron. It began far back in prehistory. The earliest surviving iron artifacts, from the 4th millennium BC in Egypt were made from meteoritic iron-nickel

It is not known when or where the smelting of iron from ores began, but by the end of the 2nd millennium BC iron was being produced from iron ores from China to Sub-Saharan Africa

The use of wrought iron (worked iron) was known by the 1st millennium BC. During the medieval period, means were found in Europe of producing wrought iron from cast iron (in this context known as pig iron) using finery forges. For all these processes, charcoal was required as fuel.

For the following few thousand years, however, the quality of iron produced would depend as much on the ore available as on the production methods.

Steel (with a carbon content between pig iron and wrought iron) was first produced in antiquity as an alloy.

By the 17th century, iron’s properties were well understood, but increasing urbanization in Europe demanded a more versatile structural metal.

And by the 19th century, the amount of iron being consumed by expanding railroads provided metallurgists with the financial incentive to find a solution to iron’s brittleness and inefficient production processes.

During the Industrial Revolution, new methods of producing bar iron without charcoal were devised and these were later applied to produce steel

The problem of mass-producing cheap steel was solved in 1855 by Henry Bessemer, with the introduction of the Bessemer converter at his steelworks in Sheffield, England. Bessemer developed an effective way to use oxygen to reduce the carbon content in iron: The modern steel industry was born. Previously steel was very expensive to produce and only used in small expensive items such as knives, swords and armour.

The basic oxygen process was introduced at the Voest-Alpine works in 1952; a modification of the basic Bessemer process, it lances oxygen from above the steel

The history of the modern steel industry began in the late 1850s, but since then, steel has been basic to the world’s industrial economy.


  • While iron is a common element on Earth, it is also widely found elsewhere. It is believed to be the 6th most common element in the Universe.
  • Steel alloys are made from iron ore. Pure iron is rarely found in the earth’s crust. While there are many types of steel, all steel is made from removing impurities from iron.
  • While iron is a fairly strong material on its own, steel can be 1000 times stronger than iron.
  • Steel naturally rusts from a chemical reaction when exposed to oxygen and water. To prevent rusting, steel is often coated or painted with a material, such as galvanization, which coats steel with zinc.
  • Rusting of steel slows down or even stops entirely when an electrical current is passing through steel. This is known as Cathodic Protection, and is used for pipelines, ships, and steel in concrete.
  • The steel industry was really born after Henry Bessemer developed the Bessemer converter that changed the way steel was produced. It made steel production much more efficient, allowing larger quantities of steel produced at less expensive prices all around the world.
  • The first major mass demand for steel came from railroad companies. Many industries soon followed in demanding steel for their needs. Steel was first used in mass production to construct railroad tracks.
  • While steel has been around for a while, 75% of existing steel types have been developed in the last 20 years.
  • Two thirds of all cans in grocery stores around the world are made out of steel. Also, recycling a single steel saves enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for almost 4 years.
  • Speaking of recycling, steel is the most recycled material in the world! Unlike any other recycled material, steel can be recycled repeatedly without any loss in quality.
  • While it may seem like a lot of energy is required to produce steel, it is not nearly as much as it used to be. The amount of energy necessary to produce a tonne of steel has been cut in half over the last 30 years.
  • You are likely surrounded by steel at the moment. A typical household appliance is made up of 65% steel products.
  • Steel is in your electronics too! Of all the materials that make up an average computer, about 25% of it is steel.
  • Metals are usually solid, good conductors of electricity and heat, shiny when clean, strong and malleable (meaning they can be bent and shaped).
  • Gold is shiny and doesn’t corrode, this means it is a great metal for making jewelry.
  • The chemical symbol used for silver is Ag, this comes from the Latin word for silver, argentum.
  • While aluminum is the most common metal found in the Earth’s crust, the most common metal found on Earth is iron, mostly because it makes up such a large part of the Earth’s core.
  • Copper is a good conductor of electricity and is often used for making wires.
  • At room temperature, mercury is the only metal that is in liquid form.
  • Aluminum is a good conductor of heat and is often used to make cooking pots.
  • Alkali metals such as sodium, potassium, rubidium, caesium and francium are extremely reactive elements, just putting them in water can result in an explosion! They are carefully stored in oil to prevent this happening.
  • Tungsten has a very high melting point, after carbon it has the second highest melting point of all elements.
  • Metals are strong and are useful for making tools, buildings, bridges and other structures where strength is important.
  • Steel is an important alloy (combination of metals) that is created from a mixture of metals, mostly iron. There are many different types of steel including stainless steel, galvanized steel and carbon steel. Steel is commonly used to make a number of products including knives, machines, train rails, cars, motors and wires.
  • Bronze is a metal alloy made from copper and tin. Copper makes up the larger amount, usually between 80 to 95%.
  • The word iron is derived from Anglo-Saxon word ‘iron’ which means metal.
  • Too much of iron in body can be dangerous. While 20mg of iron per kilogram of body weight is considered toxic, 60mg can be fatal.
  • Iron Age succeeded Bronze Age and started around 1200BC.
  • Iron’s alloy, steel can be interestingly, 1000 times harder than iron itself.
  • Presence of iron in blood gives it the deep red color.

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