What is an alloy?

We explain what an alloy is and the types of alloys that can be manufactured. In addition, some examples of this metallic mixture.

  1. What is an alloy?

Alloy is known as  the combination of two or more metallic elements , to constitute a new material that has the properties of its ingredients.

Alloys are usually considered as mixtures, since  there are no chemical reactions between the joined elements , that is, their atoms  do not intertwine or change the constitution of their molecules .

In general, different metallic materials are combined in the alloys, although one can also be combined with a nonmetallic one to alter its properties.

But the resulting material will always have metallic characteristics: brightness, good thermal and electrical conduction , greater or lesser hardness, malleability and ductility, etc. This is a usual procedure in the steel and materials industry, and is the only way to obtain substances such as bronze or brass.

Every alloy  consists of at least two ingredients : a base material to which the alloying materials are added, which can be one or more. The specific properties of the result will depend directly on the properties of the elements involved, as well as the proportion between them.

Therefore, by adding more amount of alloying material, the characteristics of the base material are further modified. Depending on the case, the proportion between them may consist of minimum percentages (0.2 to 2%) or much higher and notorious.

  1. Alloy Types

Alloys are commonly classified according to the predominance of one element over others in the mixture  (for example, we talk about copper alloys, regardless of what the other ingredients are).

However, they are also divided according to the quantity of ingredients involved, as follows:

  • alloy alloys . They integrate two elements (base element and alloying element).
  • Foreign alloys . They integrate three elements (base element and two alloys).
  • C alloys uaternarias . They integrate four elements (base element and three alloys).
  • Complex alloys . They integrate five or more elements (base element and four or more alloys).

Finally, it is often distinguished between heavy alloys and light alloys, depending on the properties of the base element. Thus, aluminum alloys are light, while those of iron are heavy.

  1. Alloy examples

Bronze is used to make tools, weapons and ceremonial objects, among others.
  • Steel . A fundamental alloy for human industries, it is a resistant but malleable material, resulting from the mixture of iron and various elements: carbon, mainly, but also silicon, sulfur and oxygen. Carbon makes iron more resistant to corrosion, although more brittle, so it is added in a small percentage.
  • Brass . It is widely used to make containers, especially for non-perishable food (cans), as well as in domestic pipes and taps, brass is obtained by means of copper and zinc alloy . It is a very ductile and malleable metal that shines easily when polished.
  • Bronze . This material played an extremely important role in the history of civilization, to develop tools, weapons and ceremonial objects. The bells are manufactured with this material, also many coins, medals, statues and a gigantic etc., given its good malleability and its economic obtaining from the copper and tin alloy.
  • Amalgam . Alloy of silver, tin, copper and mercury, is a pasty substance that hardens on contact with air , and was widely used in dentistry. Its mercury content makes it slightly toxic to the human body, so it has stopped being used.
  • Duralumin . A lightweight but resistant metal, the result of combining the properties of copper and aluminum in an alloy. It is very useful for aeronautics as it is a lightweight, malleable material but very resistant to rust.
  • Pewter . It is an alloy of zinc, lead, tin and antimony, to achieve a substance of great lightness and great heat conduction, ideal for making kitchen objects (especially cups and pots). Its great malleability comes from the particular properties of lead.
  • White Gold . Ideal for making less heavy jewelry than those with a high content of pure gold, or simply using less amount of said precious mineral, to produce less expensive objects, this material is obtained by alloying gold, copper, nickel and zinc. Rings, necklaces, medals and other ornamental objects take advantage of this lustrous, shiny and precious metal.
  • Magnalium . Highly demanded in the automotive and canned goods industry, which take advantage of its low density and its hardness, toughness and tensile strength. Magnalium is the result of aluminum alloy with magnesium (in just 10% of the mixture).

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