Industrial Engineering

Common types of metals and their properties

Metals are among the materials that are commonly used and are also the most extracted. Understanding the unique characteristics of each metal that is extracted can help you determine whether you are using it appropriately and which metals should be recycled and which should be scrapped.

A metal is a substance that, when freshly produced, polished, or shattered, displays a shiny look and conducts electricity and heat as well. Metals are typically ductile or malleable. Metal can be a molecular compound like polymeric sulfur nitride, a chemical element like iron, an alloy like stainless steel, or any combination of these.

95 of the 118 elements in the periodic table are believed to be metals. The number is approximative because the categories in question lack collectively accepted definitions, which results in a wide range of distinctions between metals, non-metals, and semi-metals. Well, in this article, the various types of metals will be discussed, as well as their uses and properties.

types of metals

Read more: Understanding the difference between metals and non-metals

Most Common Types of Metals

The following are the most commonly used metals:

  • Iron
  • Aluminum
  • Copper
  • Steel

 

Iron

Due to its presence in both the Earth’s surface and core, iron is the most common element on the planet. Since it is the fourth most plentiful element on the surface, it is very prevalent underground, such as in quarries and different mines. In the UK, the recycling of metals includes iron as well.

Since iron rapidly combines with oxygen to form iron oxides, one of which is known as rust, finding pure iron is quite difficult. Hematite and magnetite, the most prevalent types of ore, are used to extract the crude iron metal, which is then converted into pig iron using a substance called coke, a high-carbon fuel. After additional refinement, the necessary iron is recovered and combined with the supplementary carbon to produce steel and other valuable metals.

Iron is used in cookware because, when combined with hot oil, its porous surface prevents sticking. Due to its extremely high melting point, cast iron is used to make wood stoves. Iron is a hefty metal that is typically used to create the frames and bases of massive machines because it lends stiffness and dampens vibrations.

A blast furnace is used to extract iron from its ores. Pig iron is created in first-stage blast furnaces and can afterward be refined to create pure iron. This iron is frequently used to create steel and other alloys. More than 90% of the metals produced are ferrous. It is the main element of steel.

Pure iron

Aluminum

The color of aluminum is a distinctive bright silver, and it is a soft, ductile metal. It is more prevalent than iron since it is the third most abundant element on the surface of the Earth in terms of mass. The problem with natural aluminum is that it is very reactive, making it exceedingly difficult to discover. Because of this, natural aluminum is frequently found in minerals of all different types, the most common of which is bauxite.

The two most significant characteristics of aluminum are its extremely low density, which makes it extremely light, its electrical conductivity, its ability to alloy with a majority of metals, and its extremely high resistance to corrosion through a process called passivation. When aluminum is exposed to oxygen, it forms a microscopic film that coats it and stops any further corrosion. These metals are durable, lightweight, and useful. It is the most common metal on Earth, its use permeates a wide range of global applications. This is due to its characteristics.

Another noteworthy characteristic is that it is non-magnetic due to its extremely low magnetic susceptibility, which is approximately 10 billion times lower than that iron. This is great because it can be separated using Eddy Current Separators, which are devices that separate non-magnetic material from scrap metal shredder waste if you have a lot of scrap metal.

Furthermore, aluminum is a fairly popular metal despite having a little more complex manufacturing process than some of the other metals. It is the most widely used non-ferrous (iron-free) metal worldwide. Even though it doesn’t rust, it will oxidize. The only metal that, by definition, “rusts” is iron. Aluminum will rust if it comes into contact with salt. However, if it comes into touch with water, it won’t corrode. Aluminum is therefore immensely useful for producing goods like freshwater boats.

aluminum

Copper

Because of its color and chemistry, copper is infamous. Native copper is the uncombined form of copper that is found in copper sulfides like chalcocite, copper carbonates like malachite and azurite, and the copper oxide cuprite mineral. When talking about diverse metal kinds, copper and its alloys are crucial. It still has a big impact on the industry today since it is easy to make. It doesn’t exist in nature in its most basic form. Therefore, extraction and smelting from its ore are required.

Since it is one of the best metals for thermal and electrical conductivity and has a distinctive reddish-orange color, pure copper has some intriguing qualities. Copper wiring and pipes are therefore common. Copper has to be extremely malleable in order to be used for these purposes, which is a good quality to have in daily uses.

All metals work well as conductors, but copper excels in this regard. Due to its high electrical conductivity, it serves as a conductor in electrical circuits. Silver is the only metal having a higher conductivity. It also has excellent thermal conductivity. As a result, copper is a frequently used material for cooking equipment.

Finally, copper as type of metal, When exposed to a lot of oxygen, it begins to oxidize, but in a different way than when iron does. Instead of forming an oxide that erodes the metal, copper instead generates a green verdigris that covers the metal, which is why ancient copper structures frequently have a hint of green to them.

copper

Join our Newsletter

Steel

One of the most popular alloys on the planet is steel. Iron and carbon make up the majority of steel, but it can also contain other elements to try to take use of their capabilities for a particular function. For instance, chromium could be used to boost heat resistance and lessen the likelihood of corrosion.

Steel is capable of withstanding stresses when under tension because of its extraordinarily high tensile strength. This feature is crucial for building because it can be used as support beams or for other purposes. Furthermore, steel is generally inexpensive to produce, which is fantastic for manufacturers, construction workers, and builders because it allows them to produce large quantities of steel at a low cost.

Even though pure iron is more durable than other metals, it has a number of disadvantages. For instance, pure iron is not corrosion-resistant. Iron requires a lot of money and work to keep it from corroding. But because to its extremely high density, it is exceedingly hefty. Due of these restrictions, structures may be difficult to build and maintain. Iron is given a slight improvement by the addition of carbon. This iron and carbon composition is referred to as carbon steel up to a point. When carbon is added to iron, it acquires wonderful qualities and becomes significantly stronger.

Flat Steel

Read more: What are the metal materials used in electric cars?

Other types of metals

The followings are other types of metal that are used in variety of applications:

  • Carbon Steel
  • Alloy Steel
  • Stainless Steel
  • Magnesium
  • Brass
  • Bronze
  • Zinc
  • Titanium
  • Tungsten
  • Nickel
  • Cobalt
  • Silver
  • Gold

 

Read more: Understanding the iron ore smelting process

Carbon Steel

Carbon steel is defined as steel that contains at most 0.5% silicon and 1.5% manganese and derives most of its characteristics from carbon. Iron and carbon make up the basic steel, while other elements could be added in very minute amounts.

Steel’s basic constituents are good carbon and iron, while other elements may be added in very small amounts. These three broad classifications can be used to separate low, medium, and high carbon steel. More carbon is present in stronger, harder substances. Less carbon has advantages such as being cheaper, softer, and easier to manufacture. The most frequent uses of carbon steel are in construction, basic mechanical parts, and a wide range of tools.

Read more: Various methods of steelmaking process

Alloy Steel

Alloy steel is steel that has had sufficient amounts of elements other than carbon added to it in order to give the metal unique qualities. These alloying substances include tungsten, manganese, vanadium, chromium, and nickel. Consider it to be genetically altered steel. By adding additional components to the mixture, alloy steel is created. As a result, the metal’s characteristics are altered, effectively making it configurable. Given that it is still typically relatively inexpensive to produce, this sort of metal is very popular.

Differently, each of these elements alters the metal’s characteristics, For instance, alloy steel can strengthen high-performance gears, improve the pressure that pipelines can withstand, and make medical implants resistant to corrosion and wear. It is frequently referred to as the workhorse of the metal industry.

Read more: Heat treatment process of steel

Stainless Steel

When steel is directly heat-treated and finished, it is said to be corrosion- and oxidation-resistant. Because it has a minimum of 11% chromium, which stops iron from rusting and also gives it heat-resistant qualities, it is also known as rust-free steel. Essentially, this is steel that has been given a substantial amount of chromium. Rust is slowed by the ultra-thin barrier that the chromium forms as it corrodes. If you remove the barrier, another one will quickly grow in its place. Knives, tables, utensils, and other items that come into touch with food are all common in kitchens.

Despite being composed of stainless steel, something can still rust. Various formulations will prevent rust to differing degrees. Stainless steel must have a high level of corrosion resistance when used in close proximity to seawater to avoid rot. However, all stainless steel kinds will corrode if they are not properly cleaned and maintained.

Read more: Understanding hardness of a material

Magnesium

These metals may be easily machined and require a high polish under the buffering wheel despite being tougher than aluminum. Due to its low density of 1.74, it is preferred when weight reduction is crucial. Sheets, wires, rods, tubes, and other products are made from these types of metals.

The automobile sector is one of the most common uses for magnesium. When it comes to high-strength weight reduction, magnesium is thought to be an improvement over aluminum, and it isn’t significantly more expensive. Magnesium can be found in the transmission cases, engine blocks, and wheel rims of performance vehicles. Magnesium does have drawbacks, though. It will corrode more quickly than aluminum. For instance, it will rust when exposed to water, unlike aluminum.

Despite being able to be manufactured more quickly, it is generally twice as expensive as aluminum. Magnesium is highly combustible and burns at a very high temperature. Metal chips, filings, and powder need to be disposed of properly to prevent explosions.

Read more: Understanding compressive strength

Read more: Understanding malleability

Brass

The most popular copper and zinc alloy is brass. Brass comes in a variety of forms based on the copper to zinc ratio. Brass’s mechanical, electrical, or chemical properties can be significantly altered by the addition of small amounts of other elements.

Brass types of metals are quite beneficial for several factors as It is extremely popular for decorating because of its goldish hue. This metal is frequently used as handles and knobs on antique furniture. Depending on the desired electrical and mechanical qualities of the metal, different amounts of each metal may be used. It also has traces of manganese, lead, and other metallic components like aluminum.

Brass is a great material for low-friction applications like locks, bearings, plumbing, musical instruments, tools, and fittings. Inherently safe applications must prevent sparks from forming and must permit use in combustible environments.

Read more: Different types of sheet metals work tools

Bronze

Bronzes are the generic term for the copper- and tin-based alloys. The ideal component ratio is 5 to 25% tin and 75 to 95% copper. These metals may easily be formed or rolled into wires, rods, and sheets and are relatively durable, resist surface wear. It also has great thermal and electrical conductivity and resists corrosion. Bronze is used as a basic material to create mirrors and reflectors. It is used for electrical connectors. Due to its resistance to corrosion, it is employed in submerged components and ship fittings.

Unique and having a huge historical significance, bronze (such as in the Bronze Age). It can often be seen in huge church bells. Bronze is stronger and more durable than other metals, therefore when it is hammered, it doesn’t break or bend like other metals do. Additionally, it sounds better. Guitar strings, springs, bearings, and artwork are examples of contemporary applications. Bronze was the first alloy that humans produced.

Zinc

Zinc with the atomic number 30 and symbol Zn identify it as a chemical element. When there is no oxidation, zinc appears silver-brown and is a brittle metal. Zinc has a 7.1 specific gravity and a 420 °C melting temperature.

A frequently used metal with numerous uses in both the industrial and medical sectors is zinc. Zinc is a highly common metal that is used to cover other metals for protection. One common example is galvanized steel, which is really just steel that has been dipped in zinc. Corrosion will be less likely as a result. Additionally, zinc die castings are made for the electrical, hardware, and automotive sectors.

For the creation of galvanized iron, steel sheets are covered with this substance due to its excellent resistance to air corrosion. Zinc is rolled into sheets and used as a roofing material as well as a non-corrosive damp-proof lining for containers and other items. Brass production and the creation of zinc base die casting are two more significant uses of zinc.

Due to its low electrochemical potential, zinc is employed in marine applications to provide cathodic protection against the corrosion of other metals. Sacrificial zinc anodes can be used to safeguard valves, tanks, and pipelines. This metal is intriguing because it is useful. Its naturally low melting point makes casting quite straightforward. The substance melts easily and forms chunks that are reasonably durable. It is also quite easy to recycle it by melting it again.

Read more: Understanding the common types of metal, their properties 

Titanium

Titanium is a chemical component with the atomic number 22 and the symbol Ti. Titanium is a naturally occurring element that, when reduced, yields a glossy transition metal with silver color, low density, great strength, and resistance to corrosion.

Titanium is an essential engineering metal because of its durability and light weight. Additionally, it has extraordinary heat stability even at 480 degrees Celsius. It is advantageous in the aircraft industry because of these qualities. Equipment for the military can be made from this metal. Titanium is used in medical applications as well because it resists corrosion. Titanium is used in both the chemical and sporting goods industries.

Your body won’t reject titanium because it is biocompatible, thus it won’t cause problems. Medical implants commonly use titanium as its material. It is the metal with the highest strength to weight ratio. It therefore has great value for everything that flies. Titanium nitride, a phenomenally tough and low-friction substance formed when titanium interacts with nitrogen in a high-energy vacuum, is used to coat metal cutting tools. Titanium does not normally occur in isolation. It is always connected to another element.

Read more: Understanding hardness of a material

Tungsten

With the atomic number 74 and the chemical symbol W, tungsten is a kind of element. It is a rare metal that naturally occurs on Earth through combinations of other elements. Tungsten has the greatest melting point (3,422 °C) and boiling point (5,930 °C).

Tungsten has the highest melting point and tensile strength of all the pure metals. Therefore, it is quite useful. The production of tungsten carbide uses around half of all tungsten. This material, which is incredibly hard, is used to create cutting tools, heavy gear, and abrasives for the mining and metallurgical industries. It can be used to quickly cut titanium and high-temperature superalloys.

The name “tungsten” comes from the Swedish word “tungsten,” which meaning “heavy stone.” Its density is roughly 1.7% more than lead’s. Tungsten is a popular alloying component as well. It is widely alloyed with other elements to produce products like rocket nozzles, which must be able to endure extremely high temperatures, because of its high melting point.

Read more: Different Types of Nonferrous Metals and their Uses

Nickel

Nickel is a particular class of chemical element with the atomic number 28 and the symbol Ni. It is an extremely polishable silvery-white metal. Its melting point is 1452°C, and its specific gravity is 8.85. It is also nearly as hard as mild steel.

Nickel is a highly common material that is used in almost everything. The metal’s tensile strength and corrosion resistance are high, and it is most usually used to make stainless steel. Actually, 70% of the nickel in the world is used to make stainless steel.

It’s noteworthy that only 25% of the American five-cent coin is made up of nickel. Nickel is a further common metal for plating and alloying. It can be used to coat laboratory and chemistry equipment as well as other items that need an extremely smooth, polished finish. Nickel’s name originated in a Middle Ages German mythology. Despite the fact that nickel ore resembled copper ore, the old miners attributed their inability to extract copper from it to a mischievous sprite by the name of Nickel.

Cobalt

Chemical element cobalt has the atomic number 27 and the symbol Co. Its physical characteristics include nickel and are comparable to those of iron. Cobalt is a strong, glossy, silvery-gray metal that is created as a free element during reductive smelting.

This metal has been used for many years to make blue paint and dye pigment. The majority of its use today is to make high-strength, wear-resistant steel alloys. Cobalt is rarely mined on its own; instead, it is produced as a byproduct during the production of copper and nickel.

Read more:  Understanding fiber-reinforced plastic

Tin

Tin has the atomic number 50 and the symbol Sn as its emblem. Tin is a silver-colored metal with a slight hint of yellow. Tin is soft enough that a thin strip can be folded by hand with little effort and can be cut with minimal force.

Tin is extremely malleable and flexible. It is a part of the alloys needed to make products like bronze (1/8 tin and 7/8 copper). It is also a key ingredient in pewter (85-99 percent). When a tin bar is bent,  a “tin cry” sound is produced. This twanging sound is caused by the crystal structure self-rebuilding (called twinning).

In addition, it is a white metal that shines brilliantly and is soft, malleable, and ductile. The metal is simple to roll into an incredibly thin sheet. Tin is typically used to create fine solder from significant alloys, preserve iron and steel sheets, and create tin foil for packaging that is moisture-proof.

Silver

The atomic number 47 and the symbol Ag stand for silver, respectively. It is a transition metal that is soft, white, and glossy and exhibits the highest levels of thermal and electrical conductivity. It is the free native form of native silver and is present in the earth’s crust in its purest form.

This alloy contains gold as well as a combination of additional metals. Numerous bullion coins are produced using silver, which has long been regarded as a precious metal. In addition to being used in money, silver is also utilized in kitchenware, jewelry, high-end dinnerware, solar panels, and water filtering. Additionally, photographic and X-ray film uses its mixtures.

Gold

Located in the same periodic table column as silver and copper, gold is a type of transition metal. It has an atomic number of 79 and is represented by the symbol Au. In its purest form, gold is a vivid, pale orange-yellow color and is thick, soft, malleable, and ductile.

In actuality, gold was one of the earliest metals used by humans and was created by the Egyptians. Additionally, it has traditionally been a representation of beauty and riches. Gold is a precious metal that has been utilized throughout history to create coins, jewelry, and other works of art due to its rarity as an element.

Lead

Lead is a chemical substance with the atomic number 82 and the symbol Pb. It weighs a lot and has a higher density than the majority of materials. These metals have a relatively low melting point, are pliable, and soft. In addition to being extremely dense and heavy, lead is also highly soft and flexible. Lead is a corrosion-resistant metal that is very machinable. Some use cases include piping and painting.

In the past, lead was added to gasoline to prevent knocking. It was later discovered that the byproduct of this lead was the root of serious health problems. Lead is still frequently used in things like ammunition, car batteries, radiation shielding, weight lifting, cable sheathing, etc. In the 1800s, it was recognized that lead is a really deadly substance. As a result, even though it wasn’t that long ago, it was still present in products like paints and bullets, but it is less common now. A neurotoxin known as lead can affect the brain and cause behavioral problems, among other things.

It still has value in today’s world, despite this. For example, it functions effectively as a radiation shield. It is occasionally added to copper alloys to make the cutting process easier. The usage of copper-lead combinations frequently improves bearing performance.

Silicon

Silicon is a particular class of chemical element with the atomic number 14 and the letter Si. It is made of a bluish-gray metal that is hard, brittle, and solid. Only oxygen is bigger than silicon in terms of size in the crust of the Earth.

Silicon serves as a metalloid in a scientific sense. As a result, it has both metallic and non-metallic properties. For instance, it has a metallic appearance. It is solid, shiny, malleable, and has a high melting point. However, it is a poor conductor of electricity. This contributes to the fact that it is not fully metal.

Nevertheless, this element is usually found in metals. When employed as an alloy, it can substantially affect the properties of the metal. For instance, adding silicon makes it simpler to weld metal.

Read more: Understanding creep in a material

Chromium

Chromium is a chemical element with the symbol Cr and atomic number 24. On a physical level, it is the hardest element after carbon and perhaps diamond. It is frequently used as an alloy to make other metals stronger. The metal’s melting point is incredibly high, at about 2000 degrees Celsius. Chromium has a distinctive appearance and can be used to improve the surface finishing of other metals.

Lithium

Lithium is a member of the soft metal or metal alkali group. Its silvery-white gloss makes it appear attractive. Lithium makes glass and ceramic materials stronger.

Diagram of metal periodic table
Image: Wikipedia.org

Read more: Understanding sheet metals

Types of metals in the periodic table

The table below shows the various types of metals and their atomic numbers:

S.No Atomic Number Symbol Metal Elements
1 3 Li Lithium
2 4 Be Beryllium
3 11 Na Sodium
4 12 Mg Magnesium
5 13 Al Aluminum
6 19 K Potassium
7 20 Ca Calcium
8 21 Sc Scandium
9 22 Ti Titanium
10 23 V Vanadium
11 24 Cr Chromium
12 25 Mn Manganese
13 26 Fe Iron
14 27 Co Cobalt
15 28 Ni Nickel
16 29 Cu Copper
17 30 Zn Zinc
18 31 Ga Gallium
19 37 Rb Rubidium
20 38 Sr Strontium
21 39 Y Yttrium
22 40 Zr Zirconium
23 41 Nb Niobium
24 42 Mo Molybdenum
25 43 Tc Technetium
26 44 Ru Ruthenium
27 45 Rh Rhodium
28 46 Pd Palladium
29 47 Ag Silver
30 48 Cd Cadmium
31 49 In Indium
32 50 Sn Tin
33 55 Cs Cesium
34 56 Ba Barium
35 57 La Lanthanum
36 58 Ce Cerium
37 59 Pr Praseodymium
38 60 Nd Neodymium
39 61 Pm Promethium
40 62 Sm Samarium
41 63 Eu Europium
42 64 Gd Gadolinium
43 65 Tb Terbium
44 66 Dy Dysprosium
45 67 Ho Holmium
46 68 Er Erbium
47 69 Tm Thulium
48 70 Yb Ytterbium
49 71 Lu Lutetium
50 72 Hf Hafnium
51 73 Ta Tantalum
52 74 W Tungsten
53 75 Re Rhenium
54 76 Os Osmium
55 77 Ir Iridium
56 78 Pt Platinum
57 79 Au Gold
58 80 Hg Mercury
59 81 Tl Thallium
60 82 Pb Lead
61 83 Bi Bismuth
62 84 Po Polonium
63 87 Fr Francium
64 88 Ra Radium
65 89 Ac Actinium
66 90 Th Thorium
67 91 Pa Protactinium
68 92 U Uranium
69 93 Np Neptunium
70 94 Pu Plutonium
71 95 Am Americium
72 96 Cm Curium
73 97 Bk Berkelium
74 98 Cf Californium
75 99 Es Einsteinium
76 100 Fm Fermium
77 101 Md Mendelevium
78 102 No Nobelium
79 103 Lr Lawrencium
80 104 Rf Rutherfordium
81 105 Db Dubnium
82 106 Sg Seaborgium
83 107 Bh Bohrium
84 108 Hs Hassium
85 109 Mt Meitnerium
86 110 Ds Darmstadtium
87 111 Rg Roentgenium
88 112 Cn Copernicium
89 113 Nh Nihonium
90 114 Fl Flerovium
91 115 Mc Moscovium
92 116 Lv Livermorium

 

Read more: Understanding Brittleness of materials

Conclusion

Metals are strong, often lustrous, and non-adhesive. They are also cool and smooth. Additionally pliable and ductile, they resist breaking readily. Metals are excellent conductors of heat, sound, and electricity. They constantly expand when the temperature rises and always constrict when the temperature falls. It is simple to fuse them to other metals.

Oxygen in both water and air causes metals to react. A reddish- or yellowish-brown flaky layer of iron oxide, also known as oxidation or rusting, develops on iron or steel, especially when moisture is present. That is all for this article, where the most common types of metals, their uses and properties are been discussed.

I hope you learn a lot from the reading, if so, kindly share with others. Thanks for reading, see you around!