We’ve all heard the recent stories of technological breakthroughs in modern construction materials, most of which claim to have superior strength compared to steel. But as yet, none of these materials have become the rival to steel that was predicted. Carbon fibre is a perfect example of this.
Carbon fibre is a material that is regularly claimed to be stronger and lighter than steel, and in terms of tensile strength, this is true. The tensile strength of carbon fibre can be up to ten times the tensile strength of steel, while weighing significantly less. Carbon fibre also boasts excellent corrosion resistance properties. This may make carbon fibre sound like the perfect material, and while it may be a great material for some applications, it’s certainly not a contender to replace steel.
It is important to remember that carbon fibre’s strength is only superior to steel under specific conditions. Steel is a homogenous material - meaning that it’s strength remains the same regardless of which direction it is stressed. Carbon fibre, on the other hand, is made up of bundles of fibres, which may be incredibly strong in one direction, but are actually quite weak when forces are applied from other directions.
There are other significant disadvantages to using carbon fibre, such as being significantly more expensive to produce than steel, making it unsuitable for most common uses. Steel is also very easy to recycle, whereas carbon fibre components are sent to the landfill when they become damaged or worn. Steel can also be patch-repaired without needing to be replaced, while carbon fibre can not be repaired and must be replaced.
Despite carbon fibre and other new materials emerging on the market, steel remains to be the go-to material for countless applications due to its unrivalled versatility, recyclability, reliability and cost-effectiveness. New grades and production methods continually improve the performance and efficiency of steel, which makes the steel we use today much more advanced than when it first came into common use.
As steel stockists proudly supplying many different grades of steel to a variety of industries, our business at Pulman Steel depends on the fact that steel is still the best material out there, and from what we can tell, it would be hard to argue otherwise.
World steel production continues to grow year-on-year, so if any of these modern materials are a threat to the steel industry, we’re yet to see any evidence!