Galvanization is a process for strengthening materials in order to prepare them for strenuous use.
It involves the dipping of an alloy or metal – usually steel – in molten zinc. The zinc has to be maintained at above 860 degrees Fahrenheit in order to keep it in a liquid form ready for dipping. When exposed to the atmosphere after dipping, the zinc reacts to oxygen to form zinc oxide and carbon dioxide to form zinc carbonate. These new compounds are what form the protective layer on the surface of the alloy, which helps to prevent rusting.
The oldest known use of galvanized metal is a suit of Indian armor kept at the Royal Armories in Leeds. It has been dated to the 16th Century.
Armor is, of course, no longer the primary use for galvanized steel. You might be surprised to find that we do, however, use the strengthened alloy for many things. Here are some of the most prominent uses of galvanized steel today.
Galvanized steel wire is utilized in the recycling and construction industries due to its high resistance to corrosion. High-quality baling wire is commonly made using galvanized steel in order to allow for long-term baling solutions that do not need to be restrung due to oxidization.
Masonry nails need to be extremely tough, and also need to retain their strength in outdoor conditions. For these reasons, they are typically zinc dipped. It isn’t just masonry nails that are galvanized. Most professionals will use galvanized nails for any job that will expose workings to water. Interestingly, these nails cannot be used with treated lumber, as the chemicals used to treat the wood often react badly with zinc and eat away at the nail coating.
Galvanized steel is perfect for the construction of automobile bodies. Although it is very common to make car body parts using galvanized steel, it was not always this widespread. Until the 1980s only luxury cars were built using the strengthened alloys. Some manufacturers offer a ‘no-rust guarantee’. In almost all cases, this guarantee is offered because the car body is made of galvanized steel.
Galvanized steel is perfect for the framing that is installed in the construction of buildings. It is absolutely essential that the framing of a building remains structurally sound throughout the life of the structure. Galvanization reduces the risk of corrosion that could endanger the future occupants of a building. Most buildings are constructed with a galvanized steel frame as the base structure, which is then built around using other materials.
Love them or hate them, the electrical pylons that stand like scaffold giants all over the countryside have become a part of our lives. These impressive structures are subject to all sorts of environmental forces, and need to be able to hold up without constant maintenance. For this reason, they are often made of galvanized steel. They also need to be able to flex slightly while remaining structurally sound – again, this is something that galvanized steel does very well.