What is Killed Steel?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Killed steel is a form of steel which has been treated to fully deoxidize it when it is processed during the casting phase. Deoxidation of steel ensures a more even consistency in the finished product while increasing density and durability. There are a number of applications for killed steel, and certain grades of steel must be killed in order to meet materials standards. Materials testing can be used to determine whether or not steel has been deoxidized if there are doubts about the integrity of a steel product.

Silicon can be added to steel to prevent bubbling during manufacturing.
Silicon can be added to steel to prevent bubbling during manufacturing.

When steel is heated for casting, it interacts with the oxygen in the air. Typically, some oxygen becomes dissolved in the molten steel, and travels with it into the mold. Some of the oxygen bubbles out as the steel settles in the mold, but some of it becomes trapped, where it interacts with the carbon in the steel to create carbon monoxide.

Stainless steels are almost always killed steels.
Stainless steels are almost always killed steels.

The carbon monoxide, in turn, creates small bubbles inside the finished product. These bubbles compromise the integrity of the steel, creating weak points which could break or fracture, especially under strain. The bubbles also disrupt the texture of the steel, and make it less dense. In some cases, this may not be viewed as a problem, but in others, it can become an issue. Steel used in the manufacture of a bridge, for example, needs to be able to withstand stress without developing cracks.

When killed steel is made, a material such as aluminum, silicon, or manganese is added to the steel before it is poured into the molds. This deoxidizes the steel, forcing the oxygen out of the steel so that by the time it hits the mold, most if not all of the oxygen is gone. Some people say that the “killed” is a reference to the fact that the steel does not bubble in the mold once it is poured.

Killed steel has a very even grain and texture as a result of the absence of carbon monoxide bubbles. It is also very dense, lacking the small holes found in steel which has not been killed, which makes it heavier than pieces of steel of the same size which have not been subjected to this process. Killed steel is sometimes subject to shrinkage because of the density, which can be a concern in certain casting applications. This steel product's strength and durability are increased by deoxidation, although factors can influence the qualities of a finished steel product.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Semi-killed steel is mostly deoxidized steel, but leaves some blowholes in the final product. The porosity increases the yield of the steel.

The weakness of killed steel is the fact that no blowholes lowers the yield of the product.

To reduce the use of agents, one can use VD/VOD (Vacuum Degassing/Vacuum-Oxygen Decarburization)


@ysmina-- Semi-killed is when a less amount of deoxiding agents are added to steel. It's not as consistent or as durable as killed steel but that kind of steel can be desirable when people want a steel which can be bent.

The most easily bent steel and the steel which has the least amount of deoxiding agents is rimmed steel. You could say that it has the opposite of killed carbon steel properties because the quality is not consistent, it's very easily bent and not dense.

I think there is a new machine that helps remove more oxygen from steel with the help of a very powerful suction. But deoxiding agents are the most common way to do this and it's cheaper.


@ddljohn-- What's the difference between semi-killed and killed steel?

Is there another way for steel suppliers to remove the bubbles from steel without using deoxiding agents?

Do these agents change the integrity of the steel at all?


@anon177407-- I'm not sure what type of example you're looking for. Killed steel is a type of steel and it could be used for many different kinds of products and structures.

The article gave an example of bridges, I know that killed steel is also used when making engine parts that need to be very strong and withhold pressure.

Killed steel is mainly preferred when a strong and uniform type of metal is necessary. Thanks to the deoxidation process, the elements in killed steel distribute evenly in the mold. So the entire steel is of equal quality and strength.

Killed steel is also preferred for making hot rolled steel because killed and semi-killed steel are most suitable for heat molding due to their uniform structure.


Please give an example of killed steel.

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