Steel is an alloy1 of iron, carbon and other elements. Steel is low cost, and high in tensile strength2, therefore is commonly used in infrastructure, machinery and weapons. It is estimated two thirds of cans in your local Coles or Woolworths are made from steel. It is also estimated that on average every electronic device we own, contains 25% steel. It is an element we use every day, but many people are still unfamiliar with the ins and outs of the material, and often have some questions. We have answered some of the common questions below.
Does Steel Rust?
Yes– Steel naturally rusts due to a chemical reaction between water and oxygen. To prevent this from occurring, steel can be coated in a protective layer. e.g. Galvanisation, which coats steel in zinc.
Can Steel be Recycled?
Yes– Steel is 100% recyclable, and is unlike any other material, because it can be recycled over and over again and not loose its quality. Fun Fact: Recycling 1kg of steel keeps 2kg of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. Empty Steel products such as cans, paint tins, chemical tins and aerosol cans can be recycled in your yellow recycling bin, provided they are empty, cleaned out and free of plastic. Tins containing materials cannot be recycled in the bin, however some local councils will host chemical collection days to deal with this scenario. Larger Sheets of Steel can be collected through a council curb side pick up provided it is within the size limits. Alternatively, steel can be recycled at some local waste collection depots. You can find out what your local collection point accepts here.
Can Steel be anodised?
No – Anodisation is where materials are coated with an oxide layer to prevent rust. Anodising steel would have the opposite effect because steel would exfoliate when anodised and therefore would be vulnerable to corrosion.
Can Steel Conduct Electricity?
Yes but not very well- All metals are conductors of electricity, however to varying degrees. According to the International Annealed Copper Standard mentioned in the article “Which Metals Conduct Electricity”, silver has 105% conductivity, where steel has between 3-15%.
Can Steel Melt?
Yes- it melts at approximately 1370 Degrees Celcius. Melting Steel is part of the recycling process as it is melted down to liquid metallic iron.
1– An alloy is a combination of metals and or other elements
2– Tensile Strength refers to the capacity of a material to resist tension / being pulled apart. High Tensile Strength means a high tension resistance.