New steel developed as strong as titanium, but 10 times cheaper

5 Feb 2015

Steel mill image via Jonathan Haeber/Flickr

There’s been a major breakthrough in the steel industry after a South Korean research team has developed a steel that’s as strong as titanium, but 10 times cheaper.

Titanium is a material that has entered the wider lexicon as being one of the strongest materials ever discovered and is almost non-corrosive, even compared with stainless steel.

Despite its obvious strength, the precious metal is considerably expensive ruling it out of major construction projects and is more commonly used in smaller items such as rings and other consumer products.

Now however, a team from Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea have published their findings in Nature detailing a new method of producing steel they have developed which could bridge the gap between steel and titanium, according to Popular Mechanics.

40 years in the making

Despite being developed in the Soviet Union in the 1970s, a mix of aluminium and steel was found to create an incredibly strong steel that had one major flaw: it would break rather than bend when it reached a particular exertion of force as a result of crystalline structures called B2 created during the mixing process.

And for the last 40 years, scientists have been attempting to solve the problem with little success, until now.

The solution was, according to the researchers, years of work attempting to control the process where these harmful B2 crystals were formed during the creation process, with the help of additional nickel, has allowed them to create the new metal.

As is often the case with revolutionary breakthroughs, the process of producing it on an industrial scale is hindered some-what by the production process currently used in steel production – using silicate – which reacts with the aluminium making it effectively useless.

Once a new method of production has been overcome, the team can then look at mass-producing it.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic