Where Does Steel Come From?
Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Hamed Saber
Steel, one of the most important metals of our modern world, is produced from iron ore. This strong, useful metal is employed in everything from serving spoons to skyscrapers.
Iron ore that occurs naturally in the earth's crust must be transformed in order to produce one of the several useful metals derived from it, including cast iron, wrought iron and steel.
The addition of a small amount of carbon, another element, to iron helps lend steel its strength.
Steel often contains elements other than iron and carbon: manganese, phosphorus, sulphur, silicon, nickel and chromium. Sometimes the elements are added intentionally. At other times, they occur naturally.
At a steel plant, a heat source is generated, then used to melt iron ore in a furnace. Molten iron is then processed to create steel.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, iron and steel are, on average, the least expensive materials available. Of all the tons of metal produced in the world each year, 95 per cent is iron and steel.
Elisabeth Dahl is a freelance writer and copyeditor who has worked in publishing since 1991. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Johns Hopkins University and a Master of Arts degree from Georgetown University, where she was a Writing Center Associate Fellow.