killersquirrel59

Steel Structure

16 posts in this topic

So, completely unrelated to Cosmere work, I was doing some research into the nature of metallurgy, specifically carbon structures in steel, and came up with a problem that I haven't seen answered before.

It has been well established that allomantic alloys must have precise percentages in order to be effective. For true metallic alloys such as bronze, pewter, and brass, this is not a problem, as the alloy process involves combining the elements involved by heating the components to liquid form. But steel is a problem. Carbon does not liquefy, and often neither does the iron (depending on furnace technology) during the steel forging process. As such, carbon is not evenly distributed through the steel. In larger products, this is mostly irrelevant, as the distribution of the carbon crystal structures in the iron is even enough function. However, this idea falls apart when considering something as small as the metal flakes consumed by allomancers. Because steel is not fully liquefied like other alloys, these flakes cannot possibly have even distribution of carbon in them, and thus will not match the perfect ratio necessary for allomantic efficacy, or even safety as it is strongly implied and in some places stated outright that a bad alloy can kill an allomancer when they burn it.

Has this issue been addressed before and I just missed it? What are your thoughts on it? It seems a pretty large hole in one of the key rules of allomancy to have gone completely unnoticed, and I was quite surprised to not find anything on the topic.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If I had to guess, it probably has something to do with Realmatic theory. Presumably the flakes of steel used in Allomancy are not individually forged, a flake or group of flakes at a time. Likely a bar of Steel is forged and the flakes are shaved from it. So my guess is that if that bar of Steel has the right percentages to start with then it's allomantically viable at the Cognitive level. Therefore any flakes derived from that viable bar will see itself as allomantically viable as well despite the actual chemical composition of said flake because it was a part of something that actually was.  It thinks therefore it is. Like I said, only a guess.

3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
36 minutes ago, Bigmikey357 said:

If I had to guess, it probably has something to do with Realmatic theory. Presumably the flakes of steel used in Allomancy are not individually forged, a flake or group of flakes at a time. Likely a bar of Steel is forged and the flakes are shaved from it. So my guess is that if that bar of Steel has the right percentages to start with then it's allomantically viable at the Cognitive level. Therefore any flakes derived from that viable bar will see itself as allomantically viable as well despite the actual chemical composition of said flake because it was a part of something that actually was.  It thinks therefore it is. Like I said, only a guess.

That is a good answer to be getting on with. I was preoccupied with the physical nature of the metal and didn't fully consider the cognitive aspect of whether or not the steel flake still saw itself as part fo the steel bar it was shaved from. It's not a fully satisfactory answer and feels a bit like a cop out, but it is enough that I can live with it if no other revelations present themselves. 

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I fully acknowledge that I could be giving Brandon too much credit and he actually flubbed this one. That's possible as well. But if it was a mistake, I'm not sure it's egregious enough to break the suspension of disbelief for an average reader. For a metallugist it might though.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Iron and Steel are indeed liquefied, otherwise Cast Iron and Crucible Steel wouldnt have been a thing, in fact "Puddling" is one of the most critical steps. It's not always perfectly distributed, and a lot of useful metallurgy takes advantage of the various imperfections (they can be great for preventing crack propagation if done correctly) but mostly it's uniform at flake sizes. 

It's true that in antiquity iron was made in Bloomeries that used other chemistry to reduce/control the Carbon and other impurities and weere then hand-worked into more useful shapes, but did still require the metal is melted during the alloying process.  Blast Furnaces, which produce Cast Iron and were a much later development in europe (way too expensive for the most part) but were in use in china as early as 5th century BC.  It's not easy or cheap as far as such things go, and there were a lot of ways to mess it up, but by the time western societies reached the Industrial level that era1 had, they'd figured it out fairly well.  And Scadrial would have been far more motivated to do it even for small quantities, whereas we were limited by the fact that it was only economic for larger quantities (or because of other military concerns).  There's a good chance they figured out something akin to the Bessemer Process which was a real turning point in our ability to produce large quantities cheaply.

 

4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

pretty much what quantus said. they had to get steel with exact composition, so they refined their metallurgy. We didn't because we never had the right incentive and it was never worth the cost anyway. Scadrian ashworld technology is close to industrial anyway, they fully had the capacity to get allomantic steel right.

The extra work you have to put in making sure the carbon is evenly distributed will simply mean it sells for a premium.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Quantus said:

Iron and Steel are indeed liquefied, otherwise Cast Iron and Crucible Steel wouldnt have been a thing, in fact "Puddling" is one of the most critical steps. It's not always perfectly distributed, and a lot of useful metallurgy takes advantage of the various imperfections (they can be great for preventing crack propagation if done correctly) but mostly it's uniform at flake sizes. 

It's true that in antiquity iron was made in Bloomeries that used other chemistry to reduce/control the Carbon and other impurities and weere then hand-worked into more useful shapes, but did still require the metal is melted during the alloying process.  Blast Furnaces, which produce Cast Iron and were a much later development in europe (way too expensive for the most part) but were in use in china as early as 5th century BC.  It's not easy or cheap as far as such things go, and there were a lot of ways to mess it up, but by the time western societies reached the Industrial level that era1 had, they'd figured it out fairly well.  And Scadrial would have been far more motivated to do it even for small quantities, whereas we were limited by the fact that it was only economic for larger quantities (or because of other military concerns).  There's a good chance they figured out something akin to the Bessemer Process which was a real turning point in our ability to produce large quantities cheaply.

 

I think there's a miscommunication. Assuming even late medieval blast furnace technology, the iron could be fully liquefied and thus have all of its impurities adequately removed, and I could even buy that they had access to something like the Bessemer process given their more advanced metallurgic technology. But the carbon is another matter. Carbon will not liquefy in anything remotely close to ordinary steel forges. Carbon has a melting point of 3550 degrees Centigrade, and even then it doesn't really melt, it sublimes (turning directly from solid to gas). As such, its distribution within the iron, no matter how well purified the iron has been through the Bessemer process  or whatever means are being used, will not be perfectly even as would be the case when alloying two metals reduced to liquid state.

 

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

7 minutes ago, killersquirrel59 said:

I think there's a miscommunication. Assuming even late medieval blast furnace technology, the iron could be fully liquefied and thus have all of its impurities adequately removed, and I could even buy that they had access to something like the Bessemer process given their more advanced metallurgic technology. But the carbon is another matter. Carbon will not liquefy in anything remotely close to ordinary steel forges. Carbon has a melting point of 3550 degrees Centigrade, and even then it doesn't really melt, it sublimes (turning directly from solid to gas). As such, its distribution within the iron, no matter how well purified the iron has been through the Bessemer process  or whatever means are being used, will not be perfectly even as would be the case when alloying two metals reduced to liquid state.

 

That's ignoring the chemcial/crystaline processes happening to create steel, the iron actually dissolves the carbon (rather than melting it) and then individual carbon atoms are being trapped at the molecular level in specific patterns depending on both the alloy ratio and the cooling process.

Edited by Quantus
grammar...
0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That got esoteric in a hurry. I like the Realmatic explanation myself. It's so much simpler than the alternative.

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Eh, I prefer the esoteric explanation (probably just because I’m studying materials science :D).  Besides, the question itself comes from a concept that’s not commonly known, so an equally esoteric answer is kinda appropriate. 

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Quantus said:

That's ignoring the chemcial/crystaline processes happening to create steel, the iron actually dissolves the carbon (rather than melting it) and then individual carbon atoms are being trapped at the molecular level in specific patterns depending on both the alloy ratio and the cooling process.

Yes exactly. That is my point. The dissolved carbon atoms are being trapped in specific patterns, but by the very nature of those patterns, the distribution, while close enough to be considered even in even a small steel object, will not be chemically perfectly even in every minuscule flake.  

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
20 minutes ago, killersquirrel59 said:

Yes exactly. That is my point. The dissolved carbon atoms are being trapped in specific patterns, but by the very nature of those patterns, the distribution, while close enough to be considered even in even a small steel object, will not be chemically perfectly even in every minuscule flake.  

The repeating patterns we are talking about are only a couple atoms wide.  That's pretty darn homogeneous compared to the much more macro size of the flakes they are ingesting.  Sure, it's not going to be chemically prefect, and Id guess that if you could get 100% perfect metal metal samples it would work noticeably better (much the way chemically Perfect gems on Roshar can be cut into Perfect Gems that do not leak Stormlight) but Allomancy is far more forgiving, to the point where the alloys can vary a decent bit with a somewhat proportional loss of efficiency.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

to make a comparison, liquid iron dissolves carbon in the same way that water dissolves salt.

You can get steel with uniform composition if you stir it enough, just the same way as you can obtain saltwater with omogeneous composition. Hopefully it will read as less esoteric.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To add my two cents, in Era I there were pocket watches and canned food. TLR's grip and influence on what technology was available was very strong, and in my mind advanced smelting processes and cast/crucible steel is not too much of a stretch. In fact, in a society like that I would expect those scientific advances in metallurgy.

Edited by Crucible of Shards
0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/8/2019 at 0:02 PM, ILuvHats said:

Eh, I prefer the esoteric explanation (probably just because I’m studying materials science :D).  Besides, the question itself comes from a concept that’s not commonly known, so an equally esoteric answer is kinda appropriate. 

I am a Materials Science Student as well and I have been wondering something similar about Pewter. Could you use the lead free Pewter that we use here on Earth and how does alloy purity effect feruchemical storage.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Gasper said:

I am a Materials Science Student as well and I have been wondering something similar about Pewter. Could you use the lead free Pewter that we use here on Earth and how does alloy purity effect feruchemical storage.

You couldn't use lead-free Pewter for Allomancy. There are specific percentages of components for each alloy that work with Allomancy.

I can't find a WoB for it, but I assume that purity affects feruchemical storages in a similar way to how it affects Allomancy - the further the percentages from the "perfect" alloy, the less efficient the metalmind is.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.