How Studying Fire and Cigarettes Is Making Steel Stronger
Who says you can’t make steel even better? I posted an article on Facebook a while back about civil engineering students and professors at Purdue University researching how to make steel structures stronger. And as the 10 year anniversary of the terrible events of 9/11 approached and passed, I found myself intrigued by the research and the whole idea of making steel better. While the researchers at Purdue are striving for structures that can withstand even more, researchers at Xi’an Jiaotong University in China have been studying how extracts from cigarette butts can make steel more corrosive resistant. Yes, that’s what I said. Cigarette butts. And you thought steel innovation wasn’t exciting!
Purdue Looks at Affects of Extreme Heat on Steel:
We already know that steel is the clear winner when you compare its strength to weight ratio to those of other building materials. Steel is strong. And it has incredible longevity and requires little maintenance. Structures made with steel can withstand earthquakes and storms like nothing else. But architects, engineers and builders were all taken aback by what happened to the towers during the events of 9/11. No one could have anticipated that any building would have been under that amount of stress. But what happened that day have prompted many to think about making structures made with steel even better. Since extreme heat can make steel beams sag, the team at Purdue University has created a dependable full-scale model for testing the affects of fire on the connections between steel floor beams and columns. Researchers are also testing a new design for nuclear power plants that incorporates a “sandwich” made of steel plates with concrete in the middle. They have found that the design, often referred to as “armored construction,” can withstand major earthquakes and even attacks from missiles or aircraft. Now that’s some innovation.
Now, More on the Cigarette Butts:
Researchers at Xi’an Jiaotong University have found a use for all those old nasty cigarette butts that, up until now, have no recycled use. Chinese researchers were baffled by the trillions of cigarette butts that end up in the streets and landfills of the world, as well as the toxins looming in the butts. So they eventually turned their efforts to find a use for them in industries, and discovered that extracts from the butts made N80 steel 90 percent or more corrosive resistant. N80 steel is used a lot in the oil and gas industry. Does it make sense to collect and boil all the cigarette butts in the world for this application? Probably not. But what is interesting from the research is the finding that nicotine was one of the things from the extract that provided that corrosion resistance. So it makes me wonder what other innovative and less environmentally damaging solutions might provide more corrosive resistance.
This is clearly not our grandparents’ steel industry.