Would the “Man of Steel” be a Better and Stronger Superhero if he was the “Man of Stainless Steel”?
May 13, 2019
Contributing Writer: Michael Roy
Have you ever wondered if our fearless hero of Metropolis would be even stronger if he was the “man of stainless steel”, or if all the stainless steel out there is the same and why different types of stainless steel are used in manufacturing? Another common question that I know I have asked many times is – “Why can’t they just use regular steel? What makes stainless steel the better choice?”. Below is a list of the different types of stainless steels with an explanation as to why they differ and some common uses for each type and what would happen if Superman was made of stainless steel. Some of the variances are very subtle but they are extremely important to ensure safety, durability, and the ability for that item being built to be able to function properly and efficiently. Answers to why did they use stainless steel instead of “regular” steel can also be found in the information provided below.
The first thing that you should understand is the difference between stainless steel and “regular” steel, also referred to as mild steel or carbon steel. Carbon steel is comprised of iron and carbon, which is used as an alloy. Stainless steel is also made up of iron but uses chromium as its alloy instead of carbon. The levels of chromium in stainless steel vary but are typically around 11.5% Its these varying levels of chromium that give us the different grades of stainless steel and is also a major factor in how well the stainless steel can fight off corrosion. The more chromium you have, the more effective the steel is at repelling corrosion. No matter what the level of chromium is, stainless steel is much more resistant to corrosion than carbon steel. Due to its ability to be highly resistant to corrosion, stainless steel is also a much better choice when building hospitals or any other highly sanitized structure. Its also a popular choice for architects due to the way it looks. If something is super shiny and doesn’t age or corrode quickly its going to be a much better choice to use for building things that are seen by lots of people. Stainless steel is also used in appliances and restaurant equipment for the same reasoning.
So, if we take the information that we have so far, it is very easy to see that the “Man of Steel” would be better off if he was made of stainless steel. He would be much stronger and would definitely look better for a much longer period of time.
Now, to take it one step further we can ask the question, what type of stainless steel would be the best version for this superhero? For this we must first separate the different types of stainless steel into families and then within each family are various grades. The families of stainless steel are as follows:
-Ferritic Stainless Steels
-Austenitic Stainless Steels
-Martensitic Stainless Steels
-Precipitation Hardened Stainless Steels
-Duplex Stainless Steels
Ferritic Stainless Steel
Ferritic Stainless Steel has a very high levels of chromium (10.5% – 27%) and a comparatively lower levels of carbon. This family of stainless steel is also known for its magnetic properties and being very ductile (the ability to be drawn out into a thin wire). You will most often find ferritic steels in kitchen utensils, industrial equipment, and in automotive applications.
Ferritic steels are a strong metal but are not the strongest of the stainless steel families and typically will be a good option when welding is needed. There are some grades of ferritic steels that do not respond well to the levels of heat used in welding and this limits this family of stainless steel to thinner gauges when used in welding applications.
There are 5 different groups of ferritic stainless steel based on chromium content and if any of Molybdenum has been added to the alloy and how much. The cost of ferritic stainless steel is generally cheaper that the other families. The higher the chromium content and level of Molybdenum will typically increase the value.
Austenitic Stainless Steel
This family of stainless steel contains austenite as its primary crystalline structure. Austenite is a non-magnetic, metallic form of iron. Austenitic stainless steel is not able to be hardened by heat treatment and can be sorted into 2 subgroups; 300 series and 200 series. The 200 series has a higher mechanical strength due to its higher levels of nitrogen.
The most common of the 300 subcategory is Type 304 which is also referred to as 18/8 or A2. The Type 304 is also the most commonly found stainless steel in general and is very often used in various types of kitchenware including cutlery and pots and pans. Following right behind Type 304, in commonality, is Type 316 austenitic stainless steel.
Martensitic Stainless Steel
Martensitic stainless steel is comprised of iron, 12% Chromium, and has carbon levels that do not exceed 1.2%. When tempered, the attributes that distinguish this family of stainless steels are its durability and hardiness. These 2 characteristics make it an ideal choice for medical tools. The untampered version is very brittle and does not have a very high level of durability.
Precipitation Hardened Stainless Steels
The aerospace industry, nuclear industry, and the oil and gas industries are examples of where you will find precipitation hardened stainless steels (PHSS). The reason why they are used in these industries is due to their extremely high levels of strength. PHSS gains this high level of strength from being heat treated and is considered a corrosion resistant alloy. This family of stainless steels can also be used when welding is necessary. I think that Superman would really like this type of stainless steel the most because of its great strength and ability to be used in some extreme and adverse environments.
Duplex stainless steels
Duplex stainless steel was not developed until the 1960’s, making this family of stainless steel the youngest. The name, duplex, was given to this type of stainless steel because there are 2 phases that are within its metallurgical structure. These 2 phases, that are about equal in proportion, are austenite and ferrite. Duplex stainless steel is known for its great mechanical and resistance properties. This means that it’s a great choice when you have an environment that can easily cause stress corrosion cracking and when welding is needed. One of the main industries that uses duplex stainless steel is the oil industry where you will find it being used for various applications dealing with deep-water offshore oil production.
So, after looking at all the different families of stainless steel it is very easy to see that the Man of Steel would be much better of being the Man of any type of Stainless Steel. All the families of stainless steel are much stronger, more malleable, have much higher resistance to corrosion, and can withstand extreme conditions and environments. I believe that he would choose the PHSS or one of the Duplex stainless steels if he had to choose but he would definitely never choose plane old boring steel!