In metallurgy, stainless steel, also known as inox steel or inox from French "inoxydable", is defined as a steel alloy with a minimum of 10.5% to 11% chromium content by mass.
Stainless steel does not readily corrode, rust or stain with water as ordinary steel does, but despite the name it is not fully stain-proof, most notably under low oxygen, high salinity, or poor circulation environments. It is also called corrosion-resistant steel or CRES when the alloy type and grade are not detailed, particularly in the aviation industry. There are different grades and surface finishes of stainless steel to suit the environment the alloy must endure. Stainless steel is used where both the properties of steel and resistance to corrosion are required.
Stainless steel differs from carbon steel by the amount of chromium present. Unprotected carbon steel rusts readily when exposed to air and moisture. This iron oxide film (the rust) is active and accelerates corrosion by forming more iron oxide, and due to the dissimilar size of the iron and iron oxide molecules (iron oxide is larger) these tend to flake and fall away. Stainless steels contain sufficient chromium to form a passive film of chromium oxide, which prevents further surface corrosion and blocks corrosion from spreading into the metal's internal structure, and due to the similar size of the steel and oxide molecules they bond very strongly and remain attached to the surface.
Passivation only occurs if the proportion of chromium is high enough and oxygen is present.
Famous quotes related to stainless steel:
“I stir my martinis with the screw,
four-inch and stainless steel,
and think of my hip where it lay
for four years like a darkness.”
—Anne Sexton (19281974)