What is Austenitic Stainless Steel? – Definition, Types, Uses, and more


Austenitic stainless steels are a class of stainless steels that have a face-centered cubic crystal structure. The austenitic structure is achieved by alloying steel with nickel and/or manganese and nitrogen. Nickel is the main alloying element, typically comprising 8-20% of the steel’s composition. Common austenitic stainless steels include the 300 series such as 304 and 316. 304 is the most common stainless steel, used for things like kitchen sinks and utensils. 316 has added molybdenum for increased corrosion resistance. Austenitic stainless steels are characterized by having excellent corrosion resistance, good formability and weldability, and high strength and ductility when compared to other classes of stainless steel.

What Is Austenitic Stainless Steel Made Of

The balance of these alloying elements stabilizes the austenitic structure, enhances properties like strength and corrosion resistance, and provides the versatility that makes austenitic stainless steels useful for many applications. Austenitic stainless steels are made up of several elements added to iron:

Types of Austenitic Stainless Steel Grades

Here are some of the most common austenitic stainless steel grades and their typical properties:

– Composition: 18-20% Cr, 8-10.5% Ni

– Yield Strength: 290 MPa

– Tensile Strength: 515 MPa

– Elongation: 40%

– Excellent corrosion resistance and good formability and weldability. Used for kitchenware, furniture, architecture, etc.

– Composition: 16-18% Cr, 10-14% Ni, 2-3% Mo

– Yield Strength: 290 MPa

– Tensile Strength: 515 MPa

– Elongation: 40%

– Superior corrosion resistance in harsh environments like marine applications. Used for chemical processing equipment.

– Composition: 16-18% Cr, 6-8% Ni, 1.5% Mn

– Yield Strength: 450 MPa

– Tensile Strength: 860 MPa

– Elongation: 40%

– Used for springs, fasteners, and structural applications needing high strength.

– Composition: 17-19% Cr, 9-12% Ni, 5xC min, Ti

– Excellent resistance to corrosion and oxidation. Used for exhaust systems and heat exchangers.

Applications of Austenitic Stainless Steel

Austenitic stainless steels, especially 304 and 316, are used across many industries from small consumer goods to large industrial applications. Their excellent corrosion resistance and good mechanical strength make them a versatile material choice. Brands leverage the material properties to convey qualities like luxury, durability, and safety.

– Sinks, pots, pans, utensils – Companies like Moen, LG, and Whirlpool use 304 and 316 stainless.

– Cladding, handrails, facades – The Gateway Arch in St. Louis has a 304 stainless steel exterior.

– Tanks, process equipment – 316L stainless steel is often specified due to its corrosion resistance.

– Boat propellers, offshore rigs – 316 stainless resists saltwater corrosion. Rolls-Royce uses 316 for marine propulsion systems.

– Surgical tools, implants – Johnson & Johnson uses 316L stainless for orthopedic implants.

– Exhaust components, trim parts – 304 stainless is used for chrome trim on iconic cars like Chevrolet Corvettes.

– Watch cases, jewelry, utensils – Rolex uses 904L stainless steel for luxury watch cases. Primanti Brothers’ iconic sandwiches are served on 304 stainless trays.


  1. Is Austenitic Stainless Steel Better Than Stainless Steel?

In applications where corrosion resistance, toughness, and weldability are priorities, and the higher cost is justified, austenitic stainless steels would be considered superior to other stainless steels. But no one stainless steel is “best” for all situations.

2. Can Austenitic Stainless Steel Get Rusted?

Yes, while austenitic stainless steels have excellent corrosion resistance thanks to the chromium and nickel content, they are not fully rust-proof. Certain environments and damage conditions can lead to rust formation on the surface over time. Proper material selection, handling, and maintenance are required.

3. Will a Magnet Stick to Austenitic Stainless Steel?

No, a magnet will not stick to austenitic stainless steel. This is because austenitic stainless steels have a non-magnetic austenitic crystal structure.

4. Is Austenitic Stainless Steel an Alloy or Metal?

Austenitic stainless steel is an alloy, not a pure metal.  Austenitic stainless steel gets its ‘stainless’ and non-magnetic properties through intentional alloying. The alloying makes it superior for many uses compared to pure iron metal.

5. What Are Other Types of Stainless Steel Beside Austenitic Stainless Steel?

The main types of stainless steel besides austenitic are:

Ferritic stainless steels contain chromium (10.5-27%) as the main alloying element. They have a ferritic body-centered cubic crystal structure which makes them magnetic. Common grades are 409 and 430. Used for automotive exhaust systems and appliances. More corrosion resistant than martensitic grades.

Martensitic stainless steels are alloyed with chromium (12-18%) and carbon. They can be heat-treated to high strength and hardness. Grades include 420 and 440. Used for knives, surgical tools, and cutlery. Moderate corrosion resistance.

Duplex stainless combines a ferritic and austenitic microstructure. Common grades are 2205 and 2507 which contain chromium, nickel, molybdenum, and nitrogen. Excellent strength and corrosion resistance used for marine applications.

Grades like 17-4PH stainless are alloyed with copper and niobium/titanium/aluminum. They can be precipitation-hardened to high strength similar to heat-treatable alloys. Used for aerospace components.

Nitrogen is added to high-alloy austenitic and duplex stainless steels for increased strength. Grade 316LN uses nitrogen for improved corrosion resistance.