Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Brown-Firth Research Laboratories

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of Sheffield

1907 Creation of the laboratory. Jointly financed by the 2 owners - Thomas Firth and Sons and John Brown and Co

1907 Harry Brearley became the first director

1912 While researching steel for small arms use (to reduce erosion of gun barrels), Brearley tried low carbon steels containing about 12 % chromium. Brearley found that the new chromium steels were very resistant to chemical attack (used to etch the surfaces for study) - in fact such steels resisted corrosion. He saw their commercial possibilities and alerted Firths but they showed little interest. He suggested using the steel for cutlery and made tests to establish the material's potential.

Brearley initially called the new alloy "rustless steel"; the term "stainless steel" was later suggested by Ernest Stuart of R. F. Mosley, a local cutlery manufacturer. It is reported that the first true stainless steel, a 0.24wt% C, 12.8wt% Cr ferrous alloy, was produced by Brearley in an electric furnace on August 13, 1913.

1916 Dr William Hatfield was appointed Director of the Brown-Firth Research Laboratories in succession to Harry Brearley and continuing Brearley's work on stainless steel.

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