Elon Musk caused quite a stir when SpaceX decided to build their new Starship rocket out of stainless steel, rather than titanium alloys or carbon composites. But for sheer strength and durability, you can’t beat steel. It’s also more economical.
“I’m in love with steel,” tweeted Elon, and to prove it, Tesla launched their CyberTruck, also made of stainless steel.
Aircraft have typically made extensive use of aluminium, because it’s so light, and titanium, for strength and rigidity. But now steel technology has presented us with new types of ‘super steel’, which means thinner, tougher, and more durable structures, that are still easily welded together. And when you are building rockets and spacecraft designed to be used over and over again, that’s what you need – durability.
What’s more, new ways of making steel ‘foam’ with 3D printers and molecular manufacturing could see steel making a comeback against carbon composites and aluminium alloys, for planes and cars too. There’s even an application for steel foam in bulletproof vests!
One of the easiest materials to recycle, steel is becoming a key commodity in the circular economy, and if some steel is lost to the oceans, it just naturally corrodes away, without any toxic pollution.
Just when you thought steel was old fashioned, the material of a bygone manufacturing age, super steel is proving to be the magic material of the next industrial revolution, from spaceships and jet engines to skyscrapers and bridges.
We’ve been living in a concrete and plastic world, but now it’s time to join the Steel Society.
(Image credit: SpaceX)