Apparently too much phosphorus in steel was one of the reasons the Titanic sank back in 1912.

Stockhead got schooled today at the Global Iron Ore and Steel Forecast Conference in Perth on why impurities in iron ore are bad.

One impurity talked about by Neil Bristow, managing director of H&W Worldwide Consulting, was phosphorus.

Here’s what we learnt: Phosphorus (P) is bad and it probably sank the Titanic.

The RMS Titanic was a British passenger liner that sank in the North Atlantic Ocean in 1912, after hitting an iceberg during her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City.

More than 1500 of the 2224 passengers aboard died, making it one of modern history’s deadliest commercial marine disasters.

Even just a little phosphorus in iron ore makes steel brittle. It can’t be easily removed either during the steelmaking process.

So brittle in fact, that:

“Phosphorus is just universally bad,” Mr Bristow told delegates.

“It weakens the steel, it can cause cracking, has major grade boundary effects and can lead to fracturing.

“There was even a theory that too much P was one of the reasons why the Titanic plates buckled when it hit the iceberg and the ship sank.

“Anybody who’s looked at cast iron which is high in phosphorus, it’s very hard but very brittle.”