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What is a non-ferrous metal?

non-ferrous metal refers to any metal or alloy that is not or does not contain iron. This includes dozens of common metallic elements such as copper, cobalt, titanium, and chromium; other less common elements such as precious metals (for example gold, silver and platinum) and even rare earths.

In addition to metals other than iron, non-ferrous metals include the various alloys among these metals, as long as they do not contain appreciable amounts of iron. Some examples of these alloys are bronze and brass, which are alloys of copper with other metals.

Although iron is the most widely used metal by man, it does not have the ideal physical or chemical properties for many applications. In these cases, it is essential to resort to non-ferrous metals.

Characteristics of non-ferrous metals

They are generally more expensive than ferrous metals

As a general rule, non-ferrous metals are rarer and more difficult to extract and purify than iron, so they are almost always considerably more expensive. This is especially true for rare earths and for precious metals such as gold and platinum.

They almost always have a lower melting point

A considerable benefit of the use of non-ferrous metals is that, in some cases, they melt at a lower temperature than iron and its alloys, which facilitates their transformation into objects and finished products, thus saving energy.

Some non-ferrous metals mold better than ferrous ones

In industry, metals are often shaped by means of molds. Non-ferrous metals such as bronze, brass and gold flow better into the molds and fill all the details of the mold better compared to ferrous metals. For this reason, non-ferrous metals are often used in decorative applications while ferrous metals are not.

Pure non-ferrous metals generally do not have good mechanical properties

With the exception of some cases such as titanium and aluminum, non-ferrous metals tend to be softer and offer less mechanical resistance than iron and its alloys. Copper, for example, is a fairly soft metal with little use as a structural metal.

Different non-ferrous alloys offer a wide range of physical and chemical properties

Non-ferrous metals are many and they are also very varied. The same can be said for its many alloys, which can be prepared in different ways to obtain almost any desirable property. This includes physical, mechanical, electrical, and thermal properties.

Non-ferrous metal applications

Aerospace industry

The aerospace industry makes use of non-ferrous metals

An important property of some non-ferrous metals such as aluminum, titanium and magnesium is that they are metals with good mechanical properties and at the same time they are very light. This makes them especially useful in the aerospace industry where you need to save as much weight as possible.

Materials such as structural aluminum have allowed the construction of new forms and structures that would not have been possible with ferrous metals. In addition, copper is the quintessential conductor that has been used for decades in all internal wiring in homes and buildings, both small and large.

Automovile industry

Magnesium is one of the metals used to make car wheel rims. Structural aluminum is used to build the chassis of many cars, and it is also used to build the engine block.

Electricity

Copper is one of the best known conductors and is used extensively in electricity generation and distribution systems. In some cases the copper is replaced by aluminum wires which are lighter, although they are not as good conductors of electricity.

electronics

The electronic device industry makes use of non-ferrous metals

Copper is the main conductor in the embedded boards of electronic devices of all kinds. Electronic contacts are made of gold or another noble metal whenever possible. On the other hand, tin is used to solder all electronic components together.

Jewelry

Most jewelry is made using precious metals such as gold, silver, and platinum, which are non-ferrous metals. In addition to being noble metals that do not rust easily, these metals can be molded to create fine details and thus create the most beautiful jewels.

The food industry

Various non-ferrous metals can be found in food cans and containers, especially processed foods. Aluminum is the metal that soda cans are made of.

Examples of non-ferrous metals

Tin

It is characterized by being very soft, having a low melting point and being highly resistant to corrosion. This makes it particularly useful as a welding material for electrical contacts and as a protective foil for other metals against corrosion.

Copper

It is an excellent conductor of both electricity and heat, which is why it is used both in electronics and in the manufacture of kitchen implements. It is, after iron, one of the metals most used by humanity.

Bronze

Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin. It stands out for its resistance to corrosion and for how easy it is to mold and work. It is frequently used for the elaboration of decorative elements such as sculptures.

Titanium

It is a fairly costly, high-strength, low- density metal that is used in industries such as aerospace and medicine for the manufacture of prostheses and bone implants.

Aluminum

It is a light and relatively abundant metal. It is used in a myriad of applications ranging from power transmission, construction, aerospace, and more.

Gold

It is the best known precious metal. It is found naturally in rivers or in underground mines. It is quite soft and malleable, and is used in industries as diverse as electronics and jewelry.

Platinum

This is another precious metal, even rarer and more expensive than gold. In addition to being used in jewelry, it is also used in the manufacture of electrodes for scientific equipment and in the manufacture of catalytic converters for automobile exhaust systems.

Magnesium

It is a light metal of high hardness that is used for the manufacture of structural components in construction, as well as in luxury wheels for automobiles.

Brass

Brass is an alloy of copper with zinc. One of the most remarkable properties of this non-ferrous metal is its resistance to corrosion, even in environments where there is a large amount of salts in the air, making it ideal for the construction of mechanical parts in ships and boats.

Lead

Lead is one of the heaviest non-ferrous metals. It is used in automotive batteries and accumulators, making it one of the most recycled metals in the world.

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