Properties of Steel Alloys

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Properties of Steel Alloys
Steel alloys offer a variety of properties for different uses. (steel sheet image by Jesse-lee Lang from

Properties of steel alloys include a variety of use and durability characteristics, depending on the end user's desire. For example, one user of steel may want a material with high corrosion resistance, while another user may desire a steel product that offers easy machinability. Depending on the materials used to create a particular steel alloy, specific properties can be enhanced.

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What Is Steel?

Steel is the material created when carbon is added to iron. Most steel has other material added to it to make an alloy with desired properties (e.g., strength or heat resistance). These alloys are classified as either high- or low-alloy steel, depending on how much of the other material is added to the steel.

Properties of Steel Alloys
Corrosion resistance is one of many steel alloy properties. (rolled steel pile image by Mikhail Tischenko from

What Is an Alloy?

An alloy is a combination of two metals, or a metal and another material. Alloys are created to achieve a desired property, such as strength or heat resistance. There is usually a give and take in material quality when an alloy is created. For example, a material that is created to maximise strength may be more difficult to machine, or be heavier. Some alloys result in one of the materials remaining the main component of the resulting creation, while other alloys are a combination of two or more materials, which creates a primarily new material. Examples of the latter include bronze (copper and tin) and brass (copper and zinc).

The Properties of Steel Alloys

Hardenability: the capability of the alloy to be hardened through heat treatment

Hardness/strength: the capability to resist pressure, force or other stress

Heat resistance: the capability to resist heat

Thermal conductivity: the capability to conduct heat

Electrical conductivity: the capability to conduct an electrical current

Machinability: the capability to be worked to a particular finish

Ductility: the capability to deform under tensile stress (be stretched)

Malleability: the capability to be worked under compressive stress (be compacted)

Weldability/joinability: the capability to be welded

Elasticity: the capability to return it to its original form after stress

Plasticity: the capability to undergo permanent shape or form change after stress

Yield strength: the point at which the alloy reaches plasticity (permanently changes shape)

Corrosion resistance: the capability to withstand corrosion

Magnetism: the capability to attract a magnet

Stiffness: elasticity (also known as Young's modulus)

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