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Every steel is an alloy, but not all steels are called "alloy steels". The simplest steels are iron (Fe) alloyed with carbon (C) (about 0.1% to 1%, depending on type). However, the term "alloy steel" is the standard term referring to steels with other alloying elements added deliberately in addition to the carbon. Common alloyants include manganese (the most common one), nickel, chromium, molybdenum, vanadium, silicon, and boron. Less common alloyants include aluminium, cobalt, copper, cerium, niobium, titanium, tungsten, tin, zinc, lead, and zirconium.
The following is a range of improved properties in alloy steels (as compared to carbon steels): strength, hardness, toughness, wear resistance, corrosion resistance, hardenability, and hot hardness. To achieve some of these improved properties the metal may require heat treating.
Some of these find uses in exotic and highly-demanding applications, such as in the turbine blades of jet engines, and in nuclear reactors. Because of the ferromagnetic properties of iron, some steel alloys find important applications where their responses to magnetism are very important, including in electric motors and in transformers.
Stainless steel is a group of ferrous alloys that contain a minimum of approximately 11% chromium, a composition that prevents the iron from rusting and also provides heat-resistant properties. Different types of stainless steel include the elements carbon (from 0.03% to greater than 1.00%), nitrogen, aluminium, silicon, sulfur, titanium, nickel, copper, selenium, niobium, and molybdenum.
Resistance to corrosion and staining, low maintenance, and familiar luster make stainless steel an ideal material for many applications where both the strength of steel and corrosion resistance are required. Moreover, stainless steel can be rolled into sheets, plates, bars, wire, and tubing. These can be used in cookware, cutlery, surgical instruments, major appliances, construction material in large buildings, industrial equipment (e.g., in paper mills, chemical plants, water treatment), and storage tanks and tankers for chemicals and food products. The material's corrosion resistance, the ease with which it can be steam-cleaned and sterilized, and the absence of the need for surface coatings have prompted the use of stainless steel in kitchens and food processing plants.
Aluminium offers a rare combination of valuable properties. It is one of the lightest metals in the world: it's almost three times lighter than iron but it's also very strong, extremely flexible and corrosion resistant because its surface is always covered in an extremely thin and yet very strong layer of oxide film. It doesn't magnetise, it's a great electricity conductor and forms alloys with practically all other metals.
Aluminium can be easily processed using pressure both when it's hot and when it's cold. It can be rolled, pulled and stamped. Aluminium doesn't catch fire, it doesn't need special paint and unlike plastics it's not toxic. It's also very pliable so sheets just 4 microns thick can be made from it, as well as extra thin wire. The extra-thin foil that can be made from aluminium is three times thinner than a human hair. In addition, aluminium is more cost effective than other metals and materials.
Copper is one of the few metals that can occur in nature in a directly usable metallic form (native metals). Commonly encountered compounds are copper(II) salts, which often impart blue or green colors to such minerals as azurite, malachite, and turquoise, and have been used widely and historically as pigments.
Copper used in buildings, usually for roofing, oxidizes to form a green verdigris (or patina). Copper is sometimes used in decorative art, both in its elemental metal form and in compounds as pigments.
Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, in proportions which can be varied to achieve varying mechanical and electrical properties. It is a substitutional alloy: atoms of the two constituents may replace each other within the same crystal structure.
Brass has long been a popular material for decoration for its bright gold-like appearance, e.g. for drawer pulls and doorknobs. It has also been widely used for all sorts of utensils due to many properties, such as low melting point, workability (both with hand tools and with modern turning and milling machines), durability, electrical and thermal conductivity. It is still commonly used in applications where corrosion resistance and low friction are required, such as locks, hinges, gears, bearings, ammunition casings, zippers, plumbing, hose couplings, valves, and electrical plugs and sockets. It is used extensively for musical instruments such as horns and bells, and also used as substitute of copper in making costume jewelry, fashion jewelry and other imitation jewelry. Brass is often used in situations in which it is important that sparks not be struck, such as in fittings and tools used near flammable or explosive materials.
Titanium is a lustrous transition metal with a silver color, low density, and high strength. Titanium is resistant to corrosion in sea water, aqua regia, and chlorine.
Titanium can be alloyed with iron, aluminium, vanadium, and molybdenum, among other elements, to produce strong, lightweight alloys for aerospace (jet engines, missiles, and spacecraft), military, industrial processes (chemicals and petrochemicals, desalination plants, pulp, and paper), automotive, agriculture (farming), medical prostheses, orthopedic implants, dental and endodontic instruments and files, dental implants, sporting goods, jewelry, mobile phones, and other applications.
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