Example Of Research Paper On The Bessemer Process: Facilitating Industrial Growth
The volume production of inexpensive steel products realized by the processes alongside those of Bessemer’s has recast the world. Cost effective steel products has allowed manufacturers to design and develop a host of large and small products using steel as a base material. Inclusive of these products are ships, aircraft, buildings, forks, spoons, witches, razors, saws, and tools and utensils of every type (Spoerl 1).
The systematized and inexpensive production of steel became feasible only after the development of the Bessemer method, named after its ingenious inventor, British metallurgist Sir Henry Bessemer. Bessemer posited that the presence of carbon in liquefied “pig iron” readily assimilates with oxygen, so a strong burst of air through the liquefied raw iron should transform the molten iron into steel by decreasing the material’s carbon content.
Bessemer devised a mechanism, the “converter,” a receptacle-shaped mechanism that allowed the compressed air to flow through the smelted iron. Bessemer suffused the mechanism with molten iron, burst compressed air in the igneous metal, and discovered that the pig iron did not contain any carbon or silicon quickly; furthermore, infusing the air in the metal did not result in the material freezing or solidifying.
It was found that even after the blast of air, the metal increased in temperature and remained in an igneous state. Ensuing research by British designer Robert Mushet showed that the process removed an excess of carbon in the material while leaving an inordinate amount of oxygen in the material. This imbalance necessitated the introduction of an amalgam composed of carbon, iron, and manganese, or “spiegel.” The manganese displaces the oxygen in the material, turning it into “manganese oxide,” which moves through the smelted iron. This is followed by the addition of smelted “spiegel;” this process results in the molten metal being converted into steel in a relatively short time without having to input any additional fuel spent (Spoerl 1).
The development of the “Bessemer process” bolstered the economy of the United States in that the manufactures made with this process were more durable and was cheaper to manufacture than the products done with the old processes. By using the new process, the mass production of steel was less tedious and was strong enough to build ships. Prior to the discovery of the Bessemer procedure, products that utilized steel products-bridges, railroads and other infrastructures used “wrought iron” was used; this was not as resilient as steel, but was far less expensive.
With the Bessemer method, it was possible to produce more than 30,000 miles of rails to be constructed in the western region of the United States. Furthermore, the military sector was able to systematize steel production for use in the manufacturing of military hardware such as ships and armored vehicles. Overall, the development of the Bessemer method enhanced and strengthened the US’ technological stature among the international community.
The combination of iron and other “ingredients” resulted in the rapid fire production of steel by the end of the 19th century. At present, steel is one of the most common materials in the global market, with a yearly production rate of nearly 1.3 billion tons. The systematized production of steel resulted to the decline in other industries, such as the building of wooden ships and other vessels (Szatkowski 1).
Middle Age “iron makers” discovered of ways to convert “cast pig iron” into the more utile wrought iron products by burning off surplus carbon in the pig iron by use of a “charcoal fed furnace, or a “finery.” By the mid 1780s, smelted iron was distilled in a “puddling furnace,” designed by Henry Cort. The Cort mechanism, the “puddling furnace,” prescribed the constant stirring of the igneous metal, separate it from the coals, by a well trained worker called a “puddler;” this equally bared the smelted metal to the heat as well as the “combustion gases” in the forge so that the carbon in the metal will be burned off. The decreasing carbon content is coupled with the rise in temperature, resulting in semi-solid metal bits to rise in the liquefied material. The “puddler” will then collect these bits and work them into a single lump and process these by way of pounding them with a hammer (Spoerl 1).
Though blast furnaces did produce cast iron with a high productivity level, the overall process of distilling cast iron remained wasteful well into the middle part of the 1800s. For David Landes, historian and professor of economics at Harvard University, the “puddling furnace” remained as the main point of congestion. It was only individuals of exceptional strength and resistance who can withstand the intense heat for hours at a time; in this light, the “puddlers” can be regarded as the elite of the proletariat (Spoerl 1).
Though Bessemer had attained degree of success as a mechanical designer, what catapulted him to “fame” was resolving a military issue. Bessemer established “rifle ammunition” as a key problem; Bessemer fabricated a method of integrating a method to spin the bullet discharged from a “smooth bore” firearm. When the British rebuffed Bessemer’s concepts, Bessemer offered the principle to the French. After a demonstration in 1854 at Vincennes, Bessemer overheard Commander Claude Etienne Minie, the designer of the rifle, stating that he speculated in discharging 30 pound projectiles from existing 12 pound pieces produced with cast iron; Minie queried if a new type of artillery piece can be made to endure the pressures generated by the guns. Rather than focus on focusing on grooves in the barrel, Bessemer centered his efforts to study the quality of the metal that can be used to manufacture cannons (Misa 1).
In the aftermath of the conflict in the Crimean region in the 1850s, Bessemer was addressing the possibility to manufacturing stronger cannons for British naval forces. Traditionally, cannons were built using cast iron; however, the material was growing in its unsuitability in the rising “rifle-style” era of firearms that discharged spinning balls through a grooved barrel. The high pressures in the barrel upon firing persistently resulted in the guns exploding, killing crewmember adjacent or near the cannon. Here, it was determined that steel would be the optimal replacement for cast iron in the cannon manufacturing process.
However, steel was only manufactured in extremely small volumes. In addition, the temperatures needed to burn off the impurities in the molten steel, such as carbon, needed vast amounts of expensive fuel to achieve the desired result. Bessemer examined the short but astonishing ‘show” when air was introduced to a “puddle” of smelted iron. Bessemer evaluated the hardened results of his testing and discovered that he had developed a new form of steel product with the use of the most inexpensive material; oxygen.
The foundational chemical and physical disciplines associated with the method were not completely comprehended at the time, but Bessemer acknowledged that the burst of compressed air removed the impurities in the steel. As time passed, Bessemer continued to refine his method, ultimately resulting in a steel product that was immensely lighter and more malleable compared to the products currently being produced. In addition, the process allowed for a faster production output method that was 10 times faster than the existing method (MacRae n.d.).
A substantial number of journalists pounced upon the possibility of using steel products manufactured by the Bessemer process to produce cannons for the English. The objective here is that with the swift production rate of the Bessemer process, and then the English will be able to produce far more artillery and naval pieces to outstrip the cannons that are deployed across the European continent at a third of the cost to produce the same number of cannons without the new method. In addition, Bessemer argued for the suitability of the product for building bridges, trusses, and overpasses (Birch 328).
Owing to the newly minted process for producing steel, the demand for labor dramatically rose. Nevertheless, the demand did not bring major benefits, but hardships. Workers slaved for 12 hours a day, compensated only 40 percent less than what should be earned to sustain a basic existence. Though the development of the Bessemer method was beneficial for the US steel industry, the US did not have any laws that could protect the rights of the steel industry workers (Szatkowski 1).
Even at the start, the Bessemer method, considered as the most critical technique for steel manufacturing in the 19th century, was linked with influential entities, with the transfer of the technology to the railroad industry and the further improvement of the process by the same; this was the model that was desired by its English inventor. Five American or English designers having developed processes for manufacturing steel by directing steam or air through melted iron; nevertheless, it was Bessemer’s method that was most utilized in the manufacturing sector. Bessemer’s innovative processes; Bessemer’s technical brilliance was only the beginning.
A closer investigation of Bessemer’s innovation activities displayed the fact that his invention was motivated by relationships with dominating institutions; the military was one of these institutions, with Bessemer’s process vastly aiding it from falling into indistinctness and deterioration, and Bessemer’s ability to generate publicity and civility were critical to his achievement in equal terms with his innovative technique (Misa 1).
Furthering Bessemer’s point of manufacturing inexpensive steel, Bessemer definitively stated that the process not only can distill iron, but also to make igneous iron into steel or pliable iron items and not using any more fuel to finish the process. This overriding feature is the main characteristic that Bessemer’s invention gained widespread attention, and after the media picked up on the invention, Bessemer’s invention became an overnight sensation. However, there were instances when failures threatened to derail Bessemer’s success. Experiments were conducted to hone the entire process.
At the time, Bessemer had not completely polished the process to generate credible results or how to manipulate the chemical transformations inherent in the method. Bessemer worked with substandard pig iron; this factor compromised the ability of Bessemer’s process to reproduce the same results as in previous instances working with high quality pig iron. Here, Bessemer found that working with inferior quality pig iron will not be conducive to creating the desired results, and that working with high quality pig iron is the only avenue by which the coveted inexpensive, durable steel product can be derived and harnessed (Birch 324).
A number of factories attempted to copy Bessemer’s method and failed dismally in their endeavors. Bessemer soon acknowledged that the experiments had utilized iron that was bereft of phosphorus; the other foundries in the country were dependent on iron materials that contained much higher contents of the element. Though the problem with phosphorus tempered the initial recognition of the new method, the issue afforded Bessemer a one-of-a-kind opportunity to establish a monopoly in the steel market in England by setting up his own factory north of England where the ore mined in that region was basically free of phosphorus and was in abundant supply. Other metallurgists eventually were able to address the issue of phosphorus in the metal, and his licensed application soon began to gain acceptance in England as well as in the United States, with the US concern operating under the UK license (MacRae 1).
One of the flaws of the early Bessemer method was that it lacked the ability of displacing the phosphorus from the pig iron. Phosphorus makes the steel extremely brittle; here, the early form of the Bessemer can only be utilized on pig iron derived from ores that were bereft of phosphorus. These types of ores were very scant and costly, as these are found in a limited number of areas. Welshman Sidney Gilchrist Thomas found that adding limestone or other chemically basic material to the converter drags the phosphorus from the pig iron and draws it into the slag. The phosphorus will float up and then this can be skimmed from the top of the converter, resulting in phosphorus clear steel. This significant revelation resulted in the possibility that the vast ore resources in the world, and not only those that have phosphorus free ore resources, can be utilized to produce pig iron using the Bessemer method, which will translate to escalating production of steel products in the United States as well as in Europe.
For example, in 1867, rails produced from “wrought iron” resources reached 460,000 tons and was being traded at $83 dollars a ton. In comparison, 2550 tons of steel rails were produced using the Bessemer process, costing $170 per ton. However, by 1884, the production of iron rails had ceased; steel rails had displaced iron rail production; more than 1,500,000 million tons were produced during this time fetching a price of $32 per ton. American steel magnate Andrew Carnegie’s acumen in decreasing production expenses would depress prices to settle at $14 per ton before the end of the 1800s. Moreover, the decrease in production costs was attended by a parallel rise in the quality of the steel products; the median life span of rails increased from two years improving to ten years and the weight capacity of these rails drastically improved from eight tons to 70 tons from the years 1865 to 1905 (Spoerl 1).
Aside from the issue of working with substandard materials, another significant issue beset Bessemer’s invention. Bessemer declared that his method of producing steel was perfect; in reality, this declaration was farthest from the truth. Proponents of a number of business ventures were frustrated that their license investments, a substantial sum, did not result in them acquiring a working and viable working production process. Their endless problems eventually resulted in Bessemer returning £32,500 in permit fees. A total business collapse was inevitable (Misa 1).
However, the Bessemer method did not hold a monopoly over the “field” for long. Designers sought to devise ways to skirt the patents in the possession of Bessemer. One of the more “worthy” competitors was the “open hearth process” invented by Karl Wilhelm Siemens. This particular method transforms iron into steel in a wide, “open hearth furnace,” or a “Siemens gas furnace” as the mechanism is also known. (This was due to the fact that the furnace was fueled by “coal gas” and then replaced by natural gas). The process is unique from the others by adding wrought iron or iron oxide to smelted pig iron till such time that the carbon level is decreased by way of refining or oxidation. In similar fashion with the Bessemer converters, using basic materials also aids in the displacement of phosphorus in the operation of the open hearth forge.
Nevertheless, the open hearth kiln is set apart from the Bessemer process, with the latter producing large volumes of steel products in a single volcanic bursts, the former consumes long hours and permits regular testing of the igneous steel so that the product can be tailored to the specifications of the clients with regards to chemical makeup and mechanical abilities. In addition, the open process permits for the bigger batches of steel to be produced as well as the reuse of waste metal. With these given benefits, the open hearth began to displace the Bessemer process as the preferred production mode in the steel industry (Spoerl 1).
Even with a wealth of distinctions and material resources, Bessemer was bitter against the Stamp Office due to an earlier altercation with the agency. In the latter part of his life, Bessemer demanded from the government that he be compensated for his forgery detection innovations. Rather than compensate Bessemer, the British government gave Bessemer an honorary knighthood in remembering his works (MacRae 1).
Birch, Alan, Economic history of the British iron and steel industry. New York: Routledge, 2013
MacRae, Michael, “Henry Bessemer,” <https://www.asme.org/engineering-topics/articles/manufacturing-processing/henry-bessemer
Misa, Thomas J., A Nation of Steel: the making of modern America, 1865-1925. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1998
Spoerl, Joseph S., “A brief history of iron and steel production,” <http://www.anselm.edu/homepage/dbanach/h-carnegie-steel.htm
Szatkowski, Zosia, “The Bessemer Process,” <http://www.mainemaritimemuseum.org/media/docs/resources/2013/03/08/The_bessemer_Process.pdf
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