Metals have always been an integral part of industrial landscapes, architecture, and construction, shaping the world’s progress and innovations in a wide selection of different areas. Although people understand metal as a whole, it’s important to know the different types and the properties they own. For example, some exhibit magnetic properties, while others do not. Some are prone to rusting, while others offer corrosion resistance.
This article will delve into the fundamental differences between ferrous and non-ferrous metals, their unique properties, and how they are used throughout different industries and environments.
What is a ferrous metal?
A ferrous metal is a type of metal that contains iron as its main component. These metals are characterised by their magnetic properties and are recognised for their strength and durability. These types of metals are commonly used in construction, manufacturing, and other industrial applications due to their strength and ability to withstand heavy loads. They are also prone to rusting when exposed to moisture and oxygen, a characteristic that sets them apart from non-ferrous alternatives.
Ferrous metals can also be further categorised into two main types which are ferrous alloys and cast iron. Ferrous alloys are metals that are primarily composed of iron but also contain other elements in precise proportions in order to achieve desired results. For example, steel is a ferrous alloy that contains iron and varying carbon content to influence hardness and strength.
Cast iron is a specific type of ferrous metal with a higher carbon content than steel. Cast iron is known for its superior casting properties and is typically used for engine blocks, cooking appliances and pipes.
What is a non-ferrous metal?
A non-ferrous metal is a type of metal that does not contain significant amounts of iron and also lacks magnetic properties. One of the main advantages of a non-ferrous metal is its resistance to rust and corrosion, making it ideal for properties and applications in various industries. Non-ferrous metals are preferred due to conductivity, corrosion resistance, or aesthetic appeal and are typically found within aerospace, electronics, homeware and construction.
Types of non-ferrous metal:
- Aluminium: Aluminium is one of the most widely used non-ferrous metals due to its lightweight nature, excellent corrosion resistance, and high conductivity. Aluminium is used in a variety of applications, including aircraft construction, window and door frames, home appliances, engineering and solar.
- Copper: Copper is an excellent conductor of electricity and heat, making it essential in electrical and plumbing systems.
- Brass: Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, and it combines the corrosion resistance of copper with malleability and is often used in musical instruments, decorative items, and plumbing.
- Bronze: Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, but it can also include other elements in order to provide strength, durability, and an attractive appearance.
- Nickel: Nickel is used in various alloys, including stainless steel and is typically used in the production of batteries, coins, and electronics.
What is the difference between a ferrous and non-ferrous metal?
The primary difference between ferrous and non-ferrous metals is down to their iron content and properties. The main difference between the two include:
- Iron content as non-ferrous metals contains little to no iron, usually less than 1% whereas ferrous metals are composed mainly of iron, often exceeding 50% of the total composition.
- Ferrous metals are magnetic, meaning they can be attracted to magnets whereas non-ferrous metals are not magnetic.
- Ferrous metals are more prone to rust and corrosion when exposed to moisture and oxygen, non-ferrous metals on the other hand are generally more corrosion-resistant.
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