By definition, stainless steel is a steel alloy with a minimum of 10.5% chromium content by mass. It is stainless steel’s chromium content that differentiates it from carbon steel and provides the corrosion, rust and stain-resistant properties we have grown accustomed to for storing and shipping various materials. In the proper quantities, chromium forms a film of chromium oxide, protecting the surface and internal structure of the steel from corrosion.
The magical corrosion resistance of chromium can be traced back to 1821 when French metallurgist, Pierre Berthier, noted iron-chromium alloys resistance to some acids and suggested the alloys should be used in the construction of cutlery. Unfortunately for 19th century people and their cutlery, it was too difficult to produce the level of carbon to chromium found in today’s stainless steel. These early alloys were exciting and new, but a bit on the brittle side until the late 1890s when German chemist, Hans Goldschmidt, made his discovery. Goldschmidt developed a process for producing carbon-free chromium.
Goldschmidt’s development set several researchers down the path to alloys that, by today’s standards, would qualify as stainless steel. Year after year, more researchers and scientists developed more different high-chromium alloys and reported new properties and benefits to this ‘stain-less steel.’ It was patented, industrialized and, by the time the Great Depression hit, was being manufactured, utilized and sold en mass in the United States.
Early researchers were right to get excited by this new steel. It’s high resistance to oxidization, acids, weak bases, organics, rust and stains paired with it’s low conductivity and easy sanitation has made it an ideal material for numerous applications including, but not limited to, the containment, transport and storage of food and beverages, hazardous materials and more. At Skolnik Industries, stainless steel barrels aren’t just corrosive resistant and antibacterial, they are also made thicker and stronger than industry standards. And, because stainless steel isn’t porous or absorbent, a Skolnik stainless steel barrel may be used multiple times after proper cleaning.
I doubt Berthier knew what he had stumbled upon two centuries ago, but on behalf of Skolnik and all of our partners, we’re very grateful for the developments his curiosity set in motion.