"Weathered" Coated Steel Tanks
Weathered steel, often referred to by the genericized trademark COR-TEN steel and sometimes written without the hyphen as corten steel, is a group of steel alloys which were developed to eliminate the need for painting, and form a stable rust-like appearance if exposed to the weather for several years. Weathering refers to the chemical composition of these steels, allowing them to exhibit increased resistance to atmospheric corrosion compared to other steels. This is because the steel forms a protective layer on its surface under the influence of the weather.
The corrosion-retarding effect of the protective layer is produced by the particular distribution and concentration of alloying elements in it. The layer protecting the surface develops and regenerates continuously when subjected to the influence of the weather. In other words, the steel is allowed to rust in order to form the protective coating.
Weathering steel is popularly used in outdoor sculptures, such as in the large Chicago Picasso sculpture, which stands in the plaza of the Daley Center Courthouse in Chicago, which is also constructed of the same weathering steel and as exterior facades, for its rustic antique appearance. Examples include Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York, The Angel of the North, Gateshead, UK and the Humanities and Arts complex at Leeds Metropolitan University – Broadcasting Place – Leeds, UK
It is also used in bridge and other large structural applications such as the New River Gorge Bridge, the second span of the Newburgh–Beacon Bridge (1980), and the creation of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) and MONA.
It is very widely used in marine transportation, in the construction of intermodal containers as well as visible sheet piling along recently widened sections of London’s M25 motorway.
The first use of weathering steel for architectural applications was the John Deere World Headquarters in Moline, Illinois. The building was designed by architect Eero Saarinen, and completed in 1964. The main buildings of Odense University, designed by Knud Holscher and Jørgen Vesterholt and built 1971–1976, are clad in weathering steel, earning them the nickname Rustenborg. In 1977, Robert Indiana created a Hebrew version of the Love sculpture made from weathering steel using the four-letter word ahava (אהבה, “love” in Hebrew) for the Israel Museum Art Garden in Jerusalem, Israel. In Denmark, all masts for supporting the catenary on electrified railways are made of weathering steel for aesthetic reasons.
Weathering steel was used in 1971 for the Highliner electric cars built by the St. Louis Car Company for Illinois Central Railroad. The use of weathering steel was seen as a cost-cutting move in comparison with the contemporary railcar standard of stainless steel. A subsequent order in 1979 was built to similar specs, including weathering steel bodies, by Bombardier. The cars were painted, a standard practice for weathering steel railcars. The durability of weathering steel did not live up to expectations, with rust holes appearing in the railcars. Painting may have contributed to the problem, as painted weathering steel is no more corrosion-resistant than conventional steel, because the protective patina will not form in time to prevent corrosion over a localized area of attack such as a small paint failure. These cars have been retired by 2016.
Weathering steel was used to build the exterior of Barclays Center, made up of 12,000 pre-weathered steel panels engineered by ASI Limited & SHoP Construction. The New York Times says of the material, “While it can look suspiciously unfinished to the casual observer, it has many fans in the world of art and architecture.”
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