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Stainless steel: 100 years rust-free

‘Unstainable steel’ became a hit in 1913 – and just look what we’ve built from it since.

IT’S IN YOUR cutlery drawer, on the operating table, transporting our food and on the Chrysler Building. Stainless steel is such a part of everyday life and famous structures, it’s hard to believe it was only invented 100 years ago.

In 1913, Harry Brearley, a researcher in a lab in Sheffield – where else – in England hit on a method for producing industrialised quantities of a highly durable stainless steel, utterly resistant to rust.

Scientists had been tinkering with forms of stainless steel but this one was not brittle and could suddenly be applied in all sorts of manufacturing situations. Brearley’s ‘Staybrite’ metal became popular in England and in 1915, he teamed up with a New York patent holder Elwood Haynes to form the American Stainless Steel Corporation.

The catchy name we now know the compound by emerged with a trade journal dubbed it “unstainable steel”.

Just look at what we’ve built with it in the 100 years since that breakthrough:

The top of the Chrysler building in New York:

Pic: John Stillwell/PA Archive/Press Association Images

The New York Times trumpeting the mass manufacturing of stainless steel in 1915:

via Wikicommons

The Sibelius monument in Helsinki, Finland:

Pic: Sibelius monument at Shutterstock.com

The DeLorean DMC-12 (manufactured in Belfast) went Back to the Future with its stainless steel panels:

Pic: James Carr/PA Archive/Press Association Images

The Atomium, Brussels in Belgium:

Pic: /Eye Ubiquitous/Press Association Images

The Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia:

Pic: Eye Ubiquitous/Press Association Images

And this small structure in Dublin…

Pic: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

This amazing feat of engineering happened exactly a century ago>
7 Dublin curiosities that tell of capital’s inventive past>

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