As the most abundant of all commercial metals, alloys of iron and steel continue to cover a broad range of structural applications.
Iron ore constitutes about 5% of the earth's crust and is easy to convert to a useful form. Iron is obtained by fusing the ore to drive off oxygen, sulfur, and other impurities. The ore is melted in a furnace in direct contact with the fuel using limestone as a flux. The limestone combines with impurities and forms a slag, which is easily removed.
Adding carbon in small amounts reduces the melting point (2,777°F) of iron. All commercial forms of iron and steel contain carbon, which is an integral part of the metallurgy of iron and steel. Manipulation of atom-to-atom relationships between iron, carbon, and various alloying elements establishes the specific properties of ferrous metals. As atoms transform from one specific arrangement, or crystal lattice, to another, strength, toughness, impact resistance, hardness, ductility, and other properties are altered. The metallurgy of iron and steel is a study of how these atomic rearrangements take place, how they can be controlled, and which properties are affected.Courtesy of Machine Design Magazine
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