Ferrous Materials Definition Examples and Meaning

Ferrous materials are those metals whose major component is iron. That is, a ferrous material can be pure iron orFerrous Materials types an alloy of iron with other metals. Iron and other ferrous materials are the most widely used metals in the world. Iron has been used by humans for thousands of years, and it currently covers almost 95% of global metal production.

Ferrous materials are used in endless applications, so we can find them everywhere, from the rods that reinforce the columns of our homes, to the tools that are used daily in all types of industries.

Characteristics of ferrous materials

high densities and high melting points

In general, ferrous materials have quite high melting points, above 1,000 ° C. They also tend to have very high densities, being close to 8 g/cm3 which is 8 times higher than the density of water.

good mechanical resistance

Most ferrous materials have the ability to withstand large forces without breaking, which is called mechanical strength. For this reason, they are widely used in construction and to make tools.


This means that ferrous materials can be crushed and deformed into thin sheets without breaking.

good conductors of heat and electricity

These are common properties in all metals. Being metals or alloys of different metals, ferrous materials are good electrical and thermal conductors.

easily recycled

Recycling ferrous materials is very simple, although it requires a lot of energy. You just need to meet them and re-forge them.

Attracted to magnets

Ferrous materials are ferromagnetic, which means that they are attracted to magnets. They can also be magnetized to make new magnets.

Types of ferrous materials

Ferrous materials are classified into two large groups: the first corresponds to the different types of iron, which mainly contain almost pure iron, and the second group corresponds to steels, which contain mixtures of iron with other substances or other metals.


These are ferrous materials made up almost exclusively of iron. They can be divided into three different types:

  • Pure iron

Iron with more than 99.80% purity is called pure iron. This is a material that contains very few impurities, in which the maximum amount of carbon is only 0.01%.

When it is so pure, iron is quite soft and malleable and oxidizes easily. It is normally used as a base for preparing alloys, in the manufacture of electrical parts, and in the manufacture of magnets.

  • Wrought iron or soft iron

Wrought iron has been known for more than 200 years. This type of ferrous material contains from 97% to 99% iron. It has very little carbon, generally less than 0.1%. The rest is made up of pulverized impurities. It is quite inexpensive and also somewhat resistant to corrosion.

  • Cast iron or castings

Foundries are iron mixtures containing 2% to 4.5% carbon and up to 3.5% silicon. There are different types of foundries depending on how much carbon and silicon they contain. There is gray and white cast iron, malleable iron, and SG iron.

This type of ferrous material is widely used for the molding of metal parts, especially in the manufacture of cast iron pans.


Steels are another type of ferrous material that consists of alloys between iron and other elements. There are many types of steel with very different properties. Some steels are very hard, some are stainless, some are very flexible, etc.

The two main types of steel are:

  • Carbon steels

As the name implies, these are alloys of iron with carbon. In general, they contain less than 1% carbon, although high carbon steels can be close to 2%. Carbon steels are much harder and stronger than the various types of irons mentioned above.

  • Steel alloys

Steel alloys are mixtures of iron and other metals. Depending on the metals that are added to the mixture and the amount that is added, stainless steel, steel for cutting tools, and high-speed steel, among others, can be obtained.

Examples of ferrous materials

Pure iron

It contains very few impurities, less than 0.2%, and is a light gray material that is quite malleable and ductile. In addition, it is very soft, so it is not suitable for making nails or tools. It is generally expensive due to its purity.


It is an alloy between iron and titanium that contains between 15% and 45% titanium. It is widely used as an alloying agent since it facilitates the preparation of steel.

Tool steel

This ferrous material is the metal that has been used for decades to make tools designed to withstand high forces and high friction. In many cases, these materials are high carbon alloys with other metals.

High-speed steel (HSS)

This is an improved version of tool steel, which contains alloys with tungsten, molybdenum, chromium, vanadium, and cobalt. They are extremely hard alloys that are often used in cutting bits and saws.


It is an iron alloy with vanadium, which has a high hardness and is very resistant to corrosion.

Gray foundation

It is the most widely used ferrous material in the world. It is very inexpensive, easy to obtain, and does not require a complicated purification process.


Ferroaluminum is an alloy that contains iron and between 40% and 60% aluminum. This alloy is characterized by its resistance to tension, its hardness, and for withstanding high temperatures without losing its strength.

SG iron

Also called spheroidal graphite iron. It is a type of cast iron that contains small beads (spheres) of graphite, which makes it more fluid when it is cast. It is widely used in the manufacture of molded parts.

Stainless steel

It is an iron alloy with varying amounts of carbon and at least 10.5% chromium. It is a fairly hard material, very shiny, and very resistant to corrosion.

White cast iron

It is called white cast iron since when it breaks it presents a bright white color in the fracture. It contains between 1.8% and 3.6% carbon in the form of cementite or iron carbide. It is a very hard but very fragile material, that is, it is very difficult to scratch its surface but if it is hit it can break.

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