Stainless Steels

Stainless steels are mainly selected for their corrosion resistance.  They have been used for almost 100 years where durability, appearance and cleanability are important.  They can be found in the home, prestigious buildings, transport, food and beverage handling, chemical plant and medical equipment.

Chromium is the essential element which gives the stainless characteristics but the most commonly used grade, type 304, also contains 8% nickel.  This is one of a family of grades known as “austenitic”.  They are characterised by good ductility coupled with ease of forming and welding.  Toughness is retained to very low temperatures so they are selected for cryogenic applications.  Some grades retain their properties to high temperatures as well. 

Nickel is an important alloying element in all the commercial grades of the duplex stainless steel family.  These have higher strength than the common austenitic grades but cannot be used over such a wide temperature range.  Nevertheless, they are finding increasing use in structural applications where strength is important.

Some grades within the other families of stainless steels – ferritic, martensitic and precipitation hardening – do contain a small percentage of nickel which enhances their properties.

Stainless steel is the largest single first use of nickel, accounting for 60.9% of nickel production in 2009 (Pariser, 2010).  In the same period, 58.3% of the stainless steel which was melted were chromium-nickel austenitic grades.

The role of nickel in stainless steel is discussed in more detail in The Nickel Advantage.
Details of applications can be found under the relevant headings in Materials Selection & Use.

Details of mechanical properties, corrosion resistance and fabrication can be found in the following publications.  Note that some are now old but remain good collections of data. 

  • The Nickel Advantage
  • 11021  High-Performance Stainless Steels
  • 16000  Practical Guidelines for the Fabrication of Duplex Stainless Steels, 2nd Ed.
  • 14056  Stainless Steels: An Introduction to Their Metallurgy and Corrosion Resistance
  • Design Manual for Structural Stainless Steel (Euro Inox)
  • 14036  Welding Duplex and Super-Duplex Stainless Steels
  • 10068  Specifying Stainless Steel Surface Treatments
  • 9011  Stainless Steels for Machining
  • 9001  Cleaning and Descaling Stainless Steel
  • 9004  High-Temperature Characteristics of Stainless Steel
  • 9002  Welding of Stainless Steels and Other Joining Methods
  • 9019  Cold Forming Stainless Steel Bar and Wire
  • 9003  Stainless Steel Fasteners - A Systematic Approach to Their Selection
  • 313  Austenitic Chromium-Nickel Stainless Steels at Subzero Temperatures - Mechanical and Physical Properties
  • 9016  Stainless Steel Forgings
  • 1229  Standard Wrought Austenitic Stainless Steels
  • 4368  Materials for Cryogenic Service - Engineering Properties of Austenitic Stainless Steels
  • 1130  Machining the Austenitic Chromium-Nickel Stainless Steels
  • 328  Types 304 and 304L Stainless Steels for Low Temperature Service
  • 2978  Austenitic Chromium-Nickel Stainless Steels at Ambient Temperatures - Mechanical and Physical Properties
  • 2980  Austenitic Chromium-Nickel Stainless Steels at Elevated Temperatures - Mechanical and Physical Properties
  • 10004  Fabrication and Post-Fabrication Cleanup of Stainless Steels
  • 10021  Procurement of Quality Stainless Steel Castings