A brief history of stainless steel


Stainless was discovered more or less contemporaneously around 1913 by researchers in Britain and Germany. In Britain, Harry Brearley of Sheffield found that steel that had been alloyed with a sufficiently high level of chromium was not susceptible to attack from etching acids or moisture. This early research, which was originally intended to enable the development of gun barrels for the military powers of the day, represented the beginnings of what is now the British part of Outokumpu.

In Sweden, the importance of this development was recognised by the then-owner of Avesta Jernverk, who financed intensive research into stainless steels and purchased a licence to manufacture them from the British. The first chromium alloy steel was produced in Sweden in 1924 and the first 18-8 (18% chromium, 8% nickel) austenitic grade was introduced the following year.

Harry Brearley

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The success of 18-8 was followed by further development of molybdenum alloy steels and, later, of austentitic-ferritic grades. New steels have been developed and patented successively since then. Today, designations such as 253 MA™ and 254 SMO® are recognised internationally as high-quality grades developed by Outokumpu.