Steel is the material that has given our modern society its tall skylines for just over a century now. The progress of the growth of civilizations has frequently been equated with progress in our ability to manipulate and utilize various materials. This explains why historians have classified entire periods of history with terms such as “the bronze age” or “the iron age.” Lighter and stronger materials enable us to make buildings taller, which enables crowded cities to fully use available real estate. Such materials also enable the construction of lighter planes and other vehicles, which saves on fuel costs.
As Lee Slaughter has become aware, Scientists in South Korea have recently made a breakthrough in creating a steel as strong as titanium and at a fraction of the cost. As discussed in a recent article in Popular Mechanics, materials scientists have long known that combining steel and aluminum allowed the creation of a lighter steel. This steel, unfortunately, was also brittle in that instead of bending under too much stress it would break. They devised a method of forming this steel that has solved this problem, and they believe that other scientists utilizing their methods will be able to create a myriad of newer, strong yet light and relatively flexible materials. It remains to be seen if this breakthrough will be big enough to mark a new age in materials history. It does represent an inexorable march forward in materials science that should result in more economical construction of tall structures and lighter and more fuel efficient transportation.