The Importance of Metals

Nickel 500

We use a lot of different types of metal every day, often without even realizing it. We may be aware that a thing is made from metal, but often we don?t really know what kind of metal it is, or what the properties or use of different metals might be. Here are just a few metals and their alloys that we use every day and some of their most important applications!

  1. Nickel

    Nickel is a common additive to stainless steel and increases stainless steel uses by making it stronger. The rate of nickel use generally is growing by 4% a year, and nickel-alloyed stainless steel uses are growing by 6%. Nickel itself can also come with various alloys that make it more or less suitable for specific applications. For example, Nickel 405 contains copper, iron, silicon, and sulfur traces with at least 63% nickel.

    These nickel alloys are popular for use in oil refinery piping and nuclear vessels because this specific combination of nickel and trace elements creates a tough, strong metal resistant to corrosion. Since submarines must operate below 100 meters in salt water, they need very strong metals with corrosion resistance.

  2. Stainless Steel

    You might already be familiar with some stainless steel uses in kitchen and other home applications. But what is stainless steel? There are actually different types of stainless steel, but in order to be called stainless steel, a metal must be made up of iron with a minimum of 10.5% chromium alloy. This chromium creates a thin layer on the surface of the iron that prevents corrosion. The more chromium there is, the better the resistance of the stainless steel.

    The most common grade of stainless steel is Stainless Steel 304, which contains chromium and also nickel. It does not conduct electricity as well as carbon steel and is not magnetic. It is also valued because it can be easily formed into whatever shape is desired. The stainless steel uses for this grade of the metal range from household to industrial, machinery parts to car headers.

  3. Aluminum

    Aluminum is perhaps the most versatile of all metals. It is soft and easy to manipulate, odorless, weighs very little yet is strong, conducts electricity but is not magnetic, and does not spark. This makes it very popular for food items such as canned beverages, but aluminum is also used in a wide variety of applications, such as aircraft parts and even including the manufacturing of glass!

    Aluminum is also popular as an alloy for bronze. Aluminum bronze alloys are normally either 9% or 12% aluminum and may contain nickel and iron as well. These alloys are very strong and resistant to corrosion, which makes them valuable for any applications where seawater is involved. Since they also keep algae, barnacles, and other marine organisms from colonizing on their surface, they are highly useful for ships.

There are many other examples of alloys and grades of steel that demonstrate the wide range and uses of metal that humans have developed. It would be safe to say that much of what we take for granted in the modern world–from national defense applications, to healthcare, to computers–could could not exist without metal.