Martensitic stainless steel
Stainless steels may be classified by their crystalline structure into three main types: austenitic, ferritic and martensitic. Martensitic stainless steels can be high- or low-carbon steels built around the Type 410 composition of iron, 12% chromium, and up to 1.2% carbon. They are hardenable by heat treatment (specifically by quenching, or by quenching and tempering). The alloy composition, and the high cooling rate of quenching enable the formation of martensite. Tempered martensite gives steel good hardness and high toughness; used largely for medical tools (scalpels, razors and internal clamps). Untempered martensite is low in toughness and therefore brittle.
The characteristic body-centered tetragonal martensite microstructure was first observed by German microscopist Adolf Martens around 1890. In 1912, Elwood Haynes applied for a U.S. patent on a martensitic stainless steel alloy. This patent was not granted until 1919.
Also in 1912, Harry Brearley of the Brown-Firth research laboratory in Sheffield, England, while seeking a corrosion-resistant alloy for gun barrels, discovered and subsequently industrialized a martensitic stainless steel alloy. The discovery was announced two years later in a January 1915 newspaper article in The New York Times. Brearly applied for a U.S. patent during 1915. This was later marketed under the "Staybrite" brand by Firth Vickers in England and was used for the new entrance canopy for the Savoy Hotel in 1929 in London.
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- "A non-rusting steel". New York Times. 31 January 1915.
- Sheffield Steel, ISBN 0-7509-2856-5.