What is an Alloy?

What Does Alloy Mean

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

Every alloy is made up of at least two ingredients, usually metallic.

What is an alloy?

An alloy is known as the combination of two or more elements, of which at least one is a metal , to form a new material that has the properties of its components.

Alloys are usually considered, in general, as mixtures , since no chemical reactions take place between the constituent elements , that is, no bonds are formed between their atoms , nor does the constitution of their molecules change .

In general, different metallic materials are combined in alloys , although a metallic one can also be combined with a non-metallic one, thus altering their properties.

Generally, the resulting material will have metallic characteristics: gloss, good thermal and electrical conduction , certain hardness, malleability, ductility , etc. The alloying process is very common in the steel and materials industry, and is the only way to obtain materials such as bronze or brass.

Every alloy is made up of at least two components : a base material to which the alloying materials are added, which can be one or more. The specific properties of the resulting material depend directly on the properties of the initial elements involved, as well as the proportion between them.

Therefore, by adding more quantity of alloying material, the characteristics of the base material are modified more. Depending on the case, the proportion between one and the other components can consist of minimal percentages (0.2 to 2%) or much higher.

See also: Homogeneous mixture

Alloy Examples

Bronze is used to make tools, weapons and ceremonial objects, among others.
  • Steel. It is a fundamental alloy for man-made industries . It is a resistant material but at the same time malleable. This alloy is made up of a mixture of iron and various elements such as carbon (it is in greater quantity), silicon, sulfur and oxygen. Carbon makes iron more resistant to corrosion , although it also makes it more brittle, so it is added in a small percentage.
  • Brass. It is widely used to make containers, especially for non-perishable foods (cans), as well as in domestic plumbing and taps. Brass is obtained by alloying copper and zinc. 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 make tools, weapons and ceremonial objects. The bells are made with this material, also many coins, medals, statues, among many other objects. The wide number of applications of this material is due to its good malleability and its economic production from copper and tin alloy.
  • Amalgam. It is an alloy of silver, tin, copper, gold, zinc, and mercury. It is a pasty substance that hardens when it comes into contact with air , and was widely used in dentistry. Its mercury content makes it slightly toxic to the human body , so it is no longer used for this purpose. However, there are other types of amalgams that are used in other sectors, such as the glass industry.
  • Duralumin. It is a light but resistant alloy, the product of combining the properties of copper and aluminum. It is very useful for the aeronautical industry as it is a light and malleable material, although not very resistant to corrosion.
  • Pewter. It is an alloy composed of copper, lead , tin and antimony, to achieve a substance of enormous lightness and great heat conduction . It is ideal for making kitchen objects (especially cups and pots). Its great malleability comes from the particular properties of lead.
  • White gold. This material is obtained by alloying gold, copper, nickel and zinc. It is ideal for making jewelry that is less heavy than those with a high content of pure gold. It is also used to produce objects that are less expensive than those made of pure gold, which is very expensive. Its main use at the moment consists in the manufacture of rings, necklaces, medals, and other ornamental objects.
  • Magnalio. It is an alloy composed of aluminum and magnesium, with just 10% magnesium. It has low density and high hardness, toughness and tensile strength. It is used primarily in the automotive industry and to make canned goods.
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