Time Travel through the Pure Iron and Steel Industry : An Ancient Indian Science of the World’s Greatest Invention

A journey into the timeline of ancient history will tell you that the world’s first ‘pure steel’ came from India. Turning the pages of history to 400 BC shows, Indians were the first to invent how to fuse the iron with a high amount of carbon to produce the first true steel. They did this by sealing iron and charcoal into clay crucibles and roasting these at extremely high temperatures in furnaces. When they broke open these cooled crucibles, ingots of pure steel were created. This pure steel contains even amounts of carbon throughout the steel, reflecting extremely tough, shatter-resistant, and could be honed to the sharpest edge features.

This invention soon became a rage all around the world. Rostam, the hero of Shahnama carried the best weapon – a sword made of Indian steel. Alexander carried back around 2.7 tons of steel made in India. And in Spain, ironsmiths used ‘Ferricum Indicum’ to hammer Indian steel into swords for the imperial Roman army. The hindsight of the historic view clearly indicating those who had Indian steel owned the most powerful tool that would change the history of the world forever.

Over a long period of time across the timeline of history, the process of manufacturing steel became much more refined. These refined changes directly shaped the landscape and the economy around the world. As a result, countries like Japan, Germany, United Kingdom, America, Middle Eastern countries, and China became masters at steel production.

Around 1912 during the British colonization era, a British metallurgist discovered a piece of steel from deep within the earth in South India. The discovered steel was layered with chromium and was particularly resistant to acid and weathering. He called it “rustless steel”. Thus, began the marketing journey of Stainless Steel from the history books of India.

Standing in 21st-century steel as we know it today is an alloy of iron and carbon containing less than 1% manganese, and 2% carbon with minimal amounts of phosphorus, silicon, sulphur, and oxygen. With recent research reflecting there are more than 3,500 different grades of steel with many different chemical, physical, and environmental properties.

This availability of a large–scale variety of Steel grades has eventually increased the usage of steel worldwide spreading the spectrum of usage across weapons, building bridges, build ships, submarine and their parts, locomotives, automobiles, machinery, household articles, surgical tools, precision engineering equipment, skyscrapers and more. Thus, directly influencing the overall volume of steel manufacturing worldwide!

Presently China, India, Japan, Russia, and USA are the top steel-producing nations of the world. While, the construction industry stands as the largest consumer of steel in the global sector accounting for approximately 50% of total world steel; with the transport sector following close second with an annual consumption of 14% of the World’s Steel. These manufacturing heads of the transportation sector include the production of trucks, cars, aviation, rails, ship-building, associated machinery industry, metal products, and more.

Standing in the Y2K millennium through the introspection across the global data of 2020, it was identified the overall production of crude steel across the world amounted to over 1.86 billion metric tons. Further, as per Statistica - a business data platform, the demand for crude steel worldwide is forecasted to rise by another 130 million metric tons by the end of 2023. This permanent material which has the ability to be recycled over and over again without losing its properties makes steel an integral part of every industry around the world. Besides this vast base layout as per the world steel.org study, the steel industry employs more than 6 million people for every 2 jobs in the steel sector, with 13 more jobs being supported throughout its supply chain, with a total of around 40 million jobs globally. These mammoth figures of the global steel market are widely backed by a large-scale contribution from the Indian Steel Industry.

This Steel & TMT industry has been one of the bulwarks of India’s rapid infrastructure development. And with the Indian government targeting a $5 trillion economy by fiscal 2025, this is one industry whose fortunes look bright indeed, despite the recent turbulence due to the Covid-19 pandemic. From a mere 22 million tonnes in 1992, the industry has ramped up capacity to 142 million tonnes in 2022, earning India the distinction of being the second-largest steel producer in the world. Further, with the rising demand for Indian steel in the global market sector, India has ramped up its annual export growth by another 25% with an overall volume of 13.49 million tonnes of steel exported in 2022. 

Thus, reflecting how from the science of the world’s greatest invention to the world’s second-largest export, India has always been the cornerstone of the steel world. With the country’s contribution to the Pure Iron and Steel world: Will always remain peerless and ageless for generations to come.

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