Different types of alloys & use

Written by erik devaney
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Different types of alloys & use
Bronze is an alloy. (bronze mask image by Martin Lodemore from Fotolia.com)

An alloy is a stable metallic substance consisting of two or more metals, although it may in some instances also contain non-metals. Manufacturers produce alloys by mixing molten base metals (the elements that will make up the most significant portions of particular alloys) with molten supplemental elements. The elements fuse, forming a substance that takes on properties of both. Manufacturers use the process of alloying to achieve certain characteristics in metals, both for industrial and other purposes.

Aluminium Alloys

Aluminium is not a very strong metal, but its conductive qualities make it useful for a variety of applications. For this reason, manufacturers mix aluminium with other metals in order to strengthen it, forming several different aluminium alloys. According to Educational Electronics USA, these include alnico, which contains nickel, iron and cobalt; magnalium, which contains magnesium; and duraluminium, also known as duralumin and duralium, which contains copper and, in some instances, magnesium and manganese. While manufacturers use alnico in the production of magnets, they use magnalium primarily in instruments. Duraluminium is often a component in car and aircraft engines.

Copper Alloys

The element copper is prone to oxidation, which makes it surface turn a dull, pale-greenish colour. To prevent oxidation, and to increase its strength, manufacturers fuse copper with a number of different elements. One of the most common copper alloys is brass, which contains approximately 20 per cent zinc. Manufactures often use the alloy for decorative items such as jewellery, as well as for nuts and bolts. Another common copper alloy is bronze, which contains about 10 per cent tin. People commonly use bronze for making coins, statues and, as with copper, decorative items.

Iron Alloys

The most well-known alloy of iron is steel, which can contain from 0.5 per cent to 1.5 per cent of carbon as its supplemental element. The carbon helps prevent the iron from rusting, and makes it stronger. People use the material widely in construction, such as for making screws, nails and beams for buildings and bridges. A variation on the alloy is stainless steel, which also contains nickel and chromium in addition to carbon. These elements help keep the metal shiny and intensify its resistance to corrosion. Manufacturers use stainless steel in a variety of different applications, such as for building tools, eating utensils, furniture and appliances such as refrigerators and ranges.

Gold Alloys

Pure gold is extremely malleable, and for this reason jewellery makers often mix it with other elements to increase its strength. According to Pricescope Diamond Journal, the most common gold alloys include yellow gold, which contains copper, silver and in some instances cobalt; and white gold, which contains copper, zinc, nickel and in some instances palladium. Both alloys are found frequently in all types of jewellery, such as rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings.

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