Although there’s no visible difference between 304 and 316 Stainless Steel, it’s what’s inside that counts. Both are made with chromium and nickel, however 316 has an added element; molybdenum. Molybdenum is a metallic element found largely in nitrogen-fixing bacteria. In humans, molybdenum metabolizes carbohydrates and fats and is also found plentiful in human tooth enamel. In steel, it aids in resisting corrosion and chemical attacks.
304 Stainless Steel – 18% Chromium, 8% Nickel
Resistant to corrosion and oxidation
Used in automotive parts, Kitchen equipment and surfaces, electrical, hardware, structural applications, applications where rust needs to be prevented, etc.
A harder steel than 316
More desirable in high temperature applications
Melting point around 2550 F (in ideal situations)
316 Stainless Steel – 16% Chromium, 10% Nickel, 2% Molybdenum
Offers superior resistance to corrosion, chemicals and sulfuric acid
Used in marine and sea water applications, where brine solutions are utilized, pharmaceutical, food and beverage industries, etc.
A softer steel than 304 (due to the molybdenum)
Slightly less desirable in high temperature applications
Melting point around 2500 F (in ideal situations)
Higher cost up-front
304 and 316 Stainless Steel are pretty straight forward in design, however, many variables can adjust the effectiveness and purpose of each application; heat range, chemicals present, duration of chemical exposure, elongated heat exposure vs. sporadic exposure, weight load, etc. It’s always best to consult with a professional if there are ever any questions or doubts about use and application. I recommend requesting a MSDS Sheet (Material Safety Data Sheet) on all material purchased. This will provide you with the manufacturers name and address, physical data, hazard and chemical data, along with other information you will need to help determine proper use and tolerance.