Iron and carbon are constituents of steel. The carbon composition of steel is not constant. It varies depending on the type and grade of steel concerned. 0.2% to 1.2% carbon content by weight is common for steels. Talking about the types of steel, one particular kind of steel is specifically called carbon steel due to the high amount of carbon in the composition.

What is Carbon Steel?
The steel that contains carbon as the main alloying element is called carbon steel. The properties of carbon steel change depending on the percentage of carbon that it has. Based on the amount of carbon, we can classify carbon steels into three categories. These are: 

a). Medium Carbon Steel

b). High Carbon Steel

c). Ultra High Carbon Steel

Ultra High Carbon Steel
The composition of carbon in the high carbon steels range from 0.30% to 1.7%. On paper, this may not look like much, but adding even a miniscule amount of carbon to the composition of steel can make a huge difference. The ultra high carbon steel that has been mentioned above contains about 1.0% to 2% carbon. The high amount of carbon in the steel allows the material to withstand extremely high temperatures. This is the reason why heat treatments can be carried out quite easily on ultra high carbon steel. The same cannot be always said for other forms of carbon steel.

Common Features of Carbon Steel
The common features of carbon steel include great strength and hardiness. This is the reason why carbon steel is often used in a number of different construction applications. The harder and stronger a material is, the more suitable it is for construction purposes. Carbon steel however is not without its flaws. It is quite unsuitable for applications that require the material to have a certain degree of flexibility. In other words, carbon steel has low ductility.

Comparison with Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is undoubtedly very different from any other form of steel, including the carbon steel that has been discussed above. What makes stainless steel unique is its impeccable corrosion resistance, or in other words, the ability to NOT corrode or rust under normal circumstances?  (Stainless steel can corrode under extreme conditions).
The difference between stainless steel and carbon steel lies in the amount of chromium in the composition. The presence of chromium (about 10.5% to 11%) causes the formation of an inert chromium oxide layer on the surface of the stainless steel. This inert oxide layer is what gives rise to the corrosion resistance of stainless steel.
Since chromium is not present in carbon steel, the corrosion resistance of carbon steel is nowhere near as good as that of stainless steel. This feature alone disqualifies as a worth candidate for several applications where stainless steel is used. When it comes to choosing a material for construction, automobiles, machineries and even surgical tools, stainless steel gets the nod ahead of carbon steel. This is because the increased corrosion resistance of stainless steel allows it to be much more durable than carbon steel.

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