Formation of low-iron alloys
In 1857, Robert Mushet received a U.S. patent for an improved method of manufacturing steel to make it more malleable. In 1894, chemists began experiments leading to low-iron alloys that could be dissolved in steel to impart toughness, strength and corrosion resistance.
In 1894, Thomas Willson began experiments at Spray with smelting metals in the carbon-arc furnace. After 1895, this work was carried on by Guillaume de Chalmot. The high temperature of the arc furnace provided a more efficient means for alloying iron with chromium, manganese, and other metals.
As a group, these low-iron alloys, called ferro-alloys, can be readily dissolved in steel to impart predictable properties according to the type and amount of metal added. For the first time, steels could be tailor-made for such properties as toughness, impact strength, high strength at high temperatures, and corrosion resistance. Improved armor plate for battle ships, high-speed tool steels, and stainless steels are just three of the hundreds of specialized steel products now in use.
Visit National Historic Chemical Landmarks to read more about Thomas Willson’s work.
Excerpted with permission, National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program