Usually, carbon steel is used in construction projects, equipment for cars and even cutlery. This steel contains a large amount of carbon, usually at the levels of 2.5%, which makes it hard and strong. Not only that, but it is recyclable, withstands shock and can resist wear. 

Carbon variations of this steel will affect its versatility and strength. High carbon steel is the toughest form of this material and has a carbon content of around 0.60%-1.4%, whereas medium carbon steel’s content is only at 0.31% -0.60%. These carbon steels would need to be used in different applications, such as hammers for high carbon steel and components of a car for medium carbon steel.

Unfortunately, carbon steel does have a weakness: corrosion. This is where stainless steel can be used to increase the corrosion resistance of carbon steel. Carbon steel can be made stainless by combining it with chromium. The chromium can act as a barrier against any moisture. 

Right now, the market for stainless carbon steel is expected to be worth around $1.3 trillion when we reach 2032. Clearly carbon steel that is stainless is seen as an innovative material. It takes the best properties from two useful metals and combines them together. 

With that said, let’s learn about how carbon steel can be made stainless. Read on to see more information about stainless carbon steel’s properties and where it can be used. 

The Essence of Carbon Steel

Carbon steel, an alloy of iron and carbon, is renowned for its strength and hardness. These are directly attributable to its carbon content. However, this same element renders the steel prone to oxidation and corrosion, particularly when exposed to moisture or chemicals. This vulnerability limits its applications in environments where corrosion resistance is paramount.

Stainless Steel: A Paradigm of Resistance

Stainless steel stands on the opposite end of the spectrum. Characterized by its minimal corrosion, this alloy incorporates chromium (at least 10.5%) alongside iron and carbon. 

The chromium forms a passive layer of chromium oxide on the steel’s surface, shielding it from oxidation and corrosion. This inherent resistance makes stainless steel an ideal choice for applications demanding longevity and durability in corrosive environments.

There are many different types of stainless steel available for use, including: 

  • Martensitic Stainless Steel: An alloy steel that has a crystal composition created from martensite. This material can be heat treated to increase its toughness. It can be used to create razors or medical equipment. 
  • Ferritic Stainless Steel: A magnetic type of steel that is known for its stability in heat. It is used in furnaces and exhausts. 
  • Austenitic Stainless Steel: With a face-centered cubic composition, this steel is extremely robust and provides protection against corrosion and high temperatures. It is used for creating medical equipment and cooking utensils and is even utilized in the aerospace industry. 
  • Duplex Stainless Steel: This steel has the properties of ferritic and austenitic stainless steel for greater protection against corrosion, especially against cracks related to chloride stress. They are used for procedures that involve chemicals and in construction work. 
  • Precipitation Hardening Stainless Steel: A steel that has been formed through heat treated austenitic and martensitic stainless steel. It is extremely strong and dense and can offer protection against oxidation. It is used in vehicles and tools in the field of medicine. 

Bridging the Gap: The Transformation Process

The transformation of carbon steel into a material mirroring stainless qualities hinges on surface modification techniques that enhance its corrosion resistance. These methods aim to either add a protective layer or alter the steel’s surface composition. They emulate the protective chromium oxide layer found in stainless steel.

Key techniques include:

  1. Chromizing: A thermochemical treatment where chromium diffuses into the steel’s surface, forming a chromium-rich layer. This process imbues the steel with a surface layer that can resist corrosion. These procedures are typically carried out at high temperatures in a controlled atmosphere.
  2. Cladding: This method involves covering the carbon steel with a layer of stainless steel. Cladding can be achieved through welding. However a stainless steel layer is bonded to the carbon steel base, or through rolling, where the two metals are fused under high pressure. The result is a composite material that combines the structural strength of carbon steel with the corrosion resistance of stainless steel.
  3. Coating: Applying protective coatings, such as paints, varnishes, or zinc plating, can also provide a barrier against corrosion. While not transforming the steel to stainless on a molecular level, these coatings act as a physical shield. They prevent corrosive elements from reaching the steel’s  surface.
  4. Nitriding: This process introduces nitrogen into the steel surface, creating a hard, wear-resistant case. While primarily used to improve hardness and wear resistance, nitriding can also enhance corrosion resistance under specific conditions.

Material Considerations and Applications

The choice of method depends on the intended application, cost considerations, and desired properties of the finished product. For instance, cladding might be preferred for large structural components needing both strength and corrosion resistance. But chromizing could be more suitable for smaller parts requiring precise dimensional tolerances.

Challenges and Considerations

Despite the advancements in making carbon steel stainless, several challenges persist. The efficiency of these treatments can be limited by factors like:

  • The thickness of the protective layer
  • How well the treatment attaches to the substrate
  • The uniformity of the treatment. 

Moreover, the environmental impact and cost of these processes are significant considerations for industries aiming for sustainable and economically viable solutions.

The Future of Material Science

The quest to enhance the properties of carbon steel reflects the broader ambitions of material science. Experts aim to develop versatile materials that meet the complex demands of modern applications. As research advances, novel techniques and materials will continue to emerge. They will help to further bridge the gap between carbon steel and stainless steel. 

Innovations, such as nano-coatings and advanced alloying techniques, hold the potential to revolutionize material properties. This will offer new possibilities to enhance a material’s: 

  • Corrosion resistance
  • Durability
  • Performance.

Are You Ready to Utilize the Power of Carbon Steel After It Has Been Made Stainless? 

The combined powers of carbon steel and stainless steel have created a fused material that is powerful, durable and strong against oxidation and corrosion. Not only that, but it remains stable in different temperatures and heats. All it takes is the addition of chromium to add that extra layer of protection. 

A variety of industries already utilize carbon steel that has stainless properties. It can be applied to: 

  • Architecture
  • Construction work 
  • The creation of vehicles
  • Tools in medicine.

The future is bright for this type of carbon steel. Therefore, further research is required to see if we can make the most out of its enhanced properties and use it in innovative applications. 

Here at Masteel, we understand the importance of steel and are dedicated to finding the grade that is best for your project. 

Our wide range of available steels, including various grades of stainless steel to carbon steel, are high-quality and are designed for use in different industries. Whether you are looking for a steel that is easy to clean and has excellent yield strength, or you are considering a material with great tensile strength and mechanical properties, Masteel will be here to guide you. 

Browse our products, such as our ASME SA285 carbon steel, and get in contact with us to find the perfect steel for you. Material innovation starts with Masteel. Speak to our experts to find a steel that will enhance your work and research.