Owing to its material properties, steel is possibly the most important engineering and construction material in the world.

The most important properties of steel are great formability and durability, good tensile and yield strength and good thermal conductivity. As well as these important properties the most characteristic of the stainless steel properties is its resistance to corrosion.

When selecting a material for a particular application, engineers must be confident that it will be suitable for the loading conditions and environmental challenges it will be subjected to while in service. Understanding and control of a material’s properties is therefore essential. The mechanical properties of steel can be carefully controlled through the selection of an appropriate chemical composition, processing and heat treatment, which lead to its final microstructure.

The alloys and the heat treatment used in the production of steel result in different property values and strengths and testing must be performed to determine the final properties of a steel and to ensure adherence to the respective standards.

There are many measurement systems used to define the properties of a given steel. For example, Yield strength, ductility and stiffness are determined using tensile testing. Toughness is measured by impact testing; and hardness is determined by measuring resistance to the penetration of the surface by a hard object.

Tensile testing is a method of evaluating the structural response of steel to applied loads, with the results expressed as a relationship between stress and strain. The relationship between stress and strain is a measure of the elasticity of the material, and this ratio is referred to as Young's modulus. A high value of Young's modulus is one of steel’s most differentiating properties; it is in the range 190-210 GPa, which is approximately three times the value for aluminum.

The physical properties of steel are related to the physics of the material, such as density, thermal conductivity, elastic modulus, Poison’s ratio etc. Some typical values for physical properties of steel are:

    • density ρ = 7.7 ÷ 8.1 [kg/dm3]
    • elastic modulus E=190÷210 [GPa]
    • Poisson’s ratio ν = 0.27 ÷ 0.30
    • Thermal conductivity κ = 11.2 ÷ 48.3 [W/mK]
    • Thermal expansion α = 9 ÷27 [10-6 / K]

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