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In metallurgy, stainless steel, also known as inox steel or inox from French "inoxydable", is a steel alloy with a minimum of 10.5% chromium content by mass.

Stainless steel does not readily corrode, rust or stain with water as ordinary steel does. However, it is not fully stain-proof in low-oxygen, high-salinity, or poor air-circulation environments. There are different grades and surface finishes of stainless steel to suit the environment the alloy must endure. Stainless steel is used where both the properties of steel and corrosion resistance are required.

Stainless steel differs from carbon steel by the amount of chromium present. Unprotected carbon steel rusts readily when exposed to air and moisture. This iron oxide film (the rust) is active and accelerates corrosion by forming more iron oxide; and, because of the greater volume of the iron oxide, this tends to flake and fall away. Stainless steels contain sufficient chromium to form a passive film of chromium oxide, which prevents further surface corrosion by blocking oxygen diffusion to the steel surface and blocks corrosion from spreading into the metal's internal structure, and, due to the similar size of the steel and oxide ions, they bond very strongly and remain attached to the surface.

Passivation occurs only if the proportion of chromium is high enough and oxygen is present.



High oxidation resistance in air at ambient temperature is normally achieved with additions of a minimum of 13% (by weight) chromium, and up to 26% is used for harsh environments. The chromium forms a passivation layer of chromium(III) oxide (Cr2O3) when exposed to oxygen. The layer is too thin to be visible, and the metal remains lustrous and smooth. The layer is impervious to water and air, protecting the metal beneath, and this layer quickly reforms when the surface is scratched. This phenomenon is called passivation and is seen in other metals, such as aluminium and titanium. Corrosion resistance can be adversely affected if the component is used in a non-oxygenated environment, a typical example being underwater keel bolts buried in timber.

When stainless steel parts such as nuts and bolts are forced together, the oxide layer can be scraped off, allowing the parts to weld together. When forcibly disassembled, the welded material may be torn and pitted, an effect known as galling. This destructive galling can be avoided by the use of dissimilar materials for the parts forced together, for example bronze and stainless steel, or even different types of stainless steels (martensitic against austenitic). However, two different alloys electrically connected in a humid environment may act as Voltaic pile and corrode faster. Nitronic alloys made by selective alloying with manganese and nitrogen may have a reduced tendency to gall. Additionally, threaded joints may be lubricated to prevent galling.


Stainless steel is generally highly resistant to attack from acids, but this quality depends on the kind and concentration of the acid, the surrounding temperature, and the type of steel. Type 904 is resistant to sulfuric acid at room temperature, even in high concentrations, type 316 and 317 are resistant below 10% and 304 should not be used at any concentration. All types of stainless steel resist attack from phosphoric acid, 316 and 317 more so than 304; and Types 304L and 430 have been successfully used with nitric acid. Hydrochloric acid will damage any kind of stainless steel, and should be avoided.


The 300 series of stainless steel grades is unaffected by any of the weak bases such as ammonium hydroxide, even in high concentrations and at high temperatures. The same grades of stainless exposed to stronger bases such as sodium hydroxide at high concentrations and high temperatures will likely experience some etching and cracking, especially with solutions containing chlorides.


Types 316 and 317 are both useful for storing and handling acetic acid, especially in solutions where it is combined with formic acid and when aeration is not present (oxygen helps protect stainless steel under such conditions), though 317 provides the greatest level of resistance to corrosion. Type 304 is also commonly used with formic acid though it will tend to discolor the solution. All grades resist damage from aldehydes and amines, though in the latter case grade 316 is preferable to 304; cellulose acetate will damage 304 unless the temperature is kept low. Fats and fatty acids only affect grade 304 at temperatures above 150 °C (302 °F), and grade 316 above 260 °C (500 °F), while 317 is unaffected at all temperatures. Type 316L is required for processing of urea.

Electricity and magnetism

Similarly to steel, stainless steel is a relatively poor conductor of electricity, with a lower electrical conductivity than that of copper.

Ferritic and martensitic stainless steels are magnetic. Annealed Austenitic stainless steels are non-magnetic. Work hardening can make austenitic stainless steels slightly magnetic.
Carbon steel is steel in which the main interstitial alloying constituent is carbon in the range of 0.12–2.0%. The American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) defines carbon steel as the following: "Steel is considered to be carbon steel when no minimum content is specified or required for chromium, cobalt, molybdenum, nickel, niobium, titanium, tungsten, vanadium or zirconium, or any other element to be added to obtain a desired alloying effect; when the specified minimum for copper does not exceed 0.40 percent; or when the maximum content specified for any of the following elements does not exceed the percentages noted: manganese 1.65, silicon 0.60, copper 0.60."

The term "carbon steel" may also be used in reference to steel which is not stainless steel; in this use carbon steel may include alloy steels.

As the carbon percentage content rises, steel has the ability to become harder and stronger through heat treating; however it becomes less ductile. Regardless of the heat treatment, a higher carbon content reduces weldability. In carbon steels, the higher carbon content lowers the melting point.


Mild and low-carbon steel

Mild steel, also known as plain-carbon steel, is the most common form of steel because its price is relatively low while it provides material properties that are acceptable for many applications, more so than iron. Low-carbon steel contains approximately 0.05–0.320% carbon making it malleable and ductile. Mild steel has a relatively low tensile strength, but it is cheap and easy to form; surface hardness can be increased through carburizing.

It is often used when large quantities of steel are needed, for example as structural steel. The density of mild steel is approximately 7.85 g/cm3 (7850 kg/m3 or 0.284 lb/in3) and the Young's modulus is 210 GPa (30,000,000 psi).

Low-carbon steels suffer from yield-point runout where the material has two yield points. The first yield point (or upper yield point) is higher than the second and the yield drops dramatically after the upper yield point. If a low-carbon steel is only stressed to some point between the upper and lower yield point then the surface may develop Lüder bands. Low-carbon steels contain less carbon than other steels and are easier to cold-form, making them easier to handle.

Higher carbon steels

Carbon steels which can successfully undergo heat-treatment have a carbon content in the range of 0.30–1.70% by weight. Trace impurities of various other elements can have a significant effect on the quality of the resulting steel. Trace amounts of sulfur in particular make the steel red-short, that is, brittle and crumbly at working temperatures. Low-alloy carbon steel, such as A36 grade, contains about 0.05% sulfur and melts around 1,426–1,538 °C (2,599–2,800 °F). Manganese is often added to improve the hardenability of low-carbon steels. These additions turn the material into a low-alloy steel by some definitions, but AISI's definition of carbon steel allows up to 1.65% manganese by weight.

Low carbon steel

0.05-0.3% carbon content.

Medium carbon steel

Approximately 0.250–0.6% carbon content. Balances ductility and strength and has good wear resistance; used for large parts, forging and automotive components.

High-carbon steel (ASTM 304)

Approximately 0.9–2.5% carbon content. Very strong, used for springs and high-strength wires.

Ultra-high-carbon steel

Approximately 2.5–3.0% carbon content. Steels that can be tempered to great hardness. Used for special purposes like (non-industrial-purpose) knives, axles or punches. Most steels with more than 2.5% carbon content are made using powder metallurgy. Note that steel with a carbon content above 2.14% is considered cast iron.

Heat Treatment

The purpose of heat treating carbon steel is to change the mechanical properties of steel, usually ductility, hardness, yield strength, or impact resistance. Note that the electrical and thermal conductivity are only slightly altered. As with most strengthening techniques for steel, Young's modulus (elasticity) is unaffected. All treatments of steel trade ductility for increased strength and vice versa. Iron has a higher solubility for carbon in the austenite phase; therefore all heat treatments, except spheroidizing and process annealing, start by heating the steel to a temperature at which the austenitic phase can exist. The steel is then quenched (heat drawn out) at a high rate causing cementite to precipitate and finally the remaining pure iron to solidify. The rate at which the steel is cooled through the eutectoid temperature affects the rate at which carbon diffuses out of austenite and forms cementite. Generally speaking, cooling swiftly will leave iron carbide finely dispersed and produce a fine grained pearlite (until the martensite critical temperature is reached) and cooling slowly will give a coarser pearlite. Cooling a hypoeutectoid steel (less than 0.77 wt% C) results in a lamellar-pearlitic structure of iron carbide layers with ?-ferrite (pure iron) between. If it is hypereutectoid steel (more than 0.77 wt% C) then the structure is full pearlite with small grains (larger than the pearlite lamella) of cementite scattered throughout. The relative amounts of constituents are found using the lever rule. The following is a list of the types of heat treatments possible:
  • Spheroidite forms when carbon steel is heated to approximately 700 °C for over 30 hours. Spheroidite can form at lower temperatures but the time needed drastically increases, as this is a diffusion-controlled process. The result is a structure of rods or spheres of cementite within primary structure (ferrite or pearlite, depending on which side of the eutectoid you are on). The purpose is to soften higher carbon steels and allow more formability. This is the softest and most ductile form of steel. The image to the right shows where spheroidizing usually occurs.
  • Carbon steel is heated to approximately 40 °C above Ac3 or Ac1 for 1 hour; this ensures all the ferrite transforms into austenite (although cementite might still exist if the carbon content is greater than the eutectoid). The steel must then be cooled slowly, in the realm of 20°C (36°F) per hour. Usually it is just furnace cooled, where the furnace is turned off with the steel still inside. This results in a coarse pearlitic structure, which means the "bands" of pearlite are thick. Fully annealed steel is soft and ductile, with no internal stresses, which is often necessary for cost-effective forming. Only spheroidized steel is softer and more ductile.
  • A process used to relieve stress in a cold-worked carbon steel with less than 0.3 wt% C. The steel is usually heated up to 550–650 °C for 1 hour, but sometimes temperatures as high as 700 °C. The image rightward shows the area where process annealing occurs.
  • It is a process in which hypoeutectoid steel is heated above the upper critical temperature and this temperature is maintained for a time and then the temperature is brought down below lower critical temperature and is again maintained. Then finally it is cooled at room temperature. This method rids any temperature gradient.
  • Carbon steel is heated to approximately 55 °C above Ac3 or Acm for 1 hour; this ensures the steel completely transforms to austenite. The steel is then air-cooled, which is a cooling rate of approximately 38 °C (100 °F) per minute. This results in a fine pearlitic structure, and a more-uniform structure. Normalized steel has a higher strength than annealed steel; it has a relatively high strength and hardness.
  • Carbon steel with at least 0.4 wt% C is heated to normalizing temperatures and then rapidly cooled (quenched) in water, brine, or oil to the critical temperature. The critical temperature is dependent on the carbon content, but as a general rule is lower as the carbon content increases. This results in a martensitic structure; a form of steel that possesses a super-saturated carbon content in a deformed body-centered cubic (BCC) crystalline structure, properly termed body-centered tetragonal (BCT), with much internal stress. Thus quenched steel is extremely hard but brittle, usually too brittle for practical purposes. These internal stresses cause stress cracks on the surface. Quenched steel is approximately three to four (with more carbon) fold harder than normalized steel.
  • Martempering is not actually a tempering procedure, hence the term "marquenching". It is a form of isothermal heat treatment applied after an initial quench of typically in a molten salt bath at a temperature right above the "martensite start temperature". At this temperature, residual stresses within the material are relieved and some bainite may be formed from the retained austenite which did not have time to transform into anything else. In industry, this is a process used to control the ductility and hardness of a material. With longer marquenching, the ductility increases with a minimal loss in strength; the steel is held in this solution until the inner and outer temperatures equalize. Then the steel is cooled at a moderate speed to keep the temperature gradient minimal. Not only does this process reduce internal stresses and stress cracks, but it also increases the impact resistance.
  • This is the most common heat treatment encountered, because the final properties can be precisely determined by the temperature and time of the tempering. Tempering involves reheating quenched steel to a temperature below the eutectoid temperature then cooling. The elevated temperature allows very small amounts of spheroidite to form, which restores ductility, but reduces hardness. Actual temperatures and times are carefully chosen for each composition.
  • The austempering process is the same as martempering, except the steel is held in the molten salt bath through the bainite transformation temperatures, and then moderately cooled. The resulting bainite steel has a greater ductility, higher impact resistance, and less distortion. The disadvantage of austempering is it can only be used on a few steels, and it requires a special salt bath.

Case Hardening

Case hardening processes harden only the exterior of the steel part, creating a hard, wear resistant skin (the "case") but preserving a tough and ductile interior. Carbon steels are not very hardenable; therefore wide pieces cannot be through-hardened. Alloy steels have a better hardenability, so they can through-harden and do not require case hardening. This property of carbon steel can be beneficial, because it gives the surface good wear characteristics but leaves the core tough.

Forging Temperature of Steel

Steel Type Maximum forging temperature (°F / °C) Burning temperature (°F / °C)
1.5% carbon 1920 / 1049 2080 / 1138
1.1% carbon 1980 / 1082 2140 / 1171
0.9% carbon 2050 / 1121 2230 / 1221
0.5% carbon 2280 / 1249 2460 / 1349
0.2% carbon 2410 / 1321 2680 / 1471
3.0% nickel steel 2280 / 1249 2500 / 1371
3.0% nickel–chromium steel 2280 / 1249 2500 / 1371
5.0% nickel (case-hardening) steel 2320 / 1271 2640 / 1449
Chromium–vanadium steel 2280 / 1249 2460 / 1349
High-speed steel 2370 / 1299 2520 / 1382
Stainless steel 2340 / 1282 2520 / 1382
Austenitic chromium–nickel steel 2370 / 1299 2590 / 1421
Silico-manganese spring steel 2280 / 1249 2460 / 1349
Titanium is a chemical element with symbol Ti and atomic number 22. It is a lustrous transition metal with a silver color, low density and high strength. It is highly resistant to corrosion in sea water, aqua regia and chlorine. Titanium was discovered in Cornwall, Great Britain, by William Gregor in 1791 and named by Martin Heinrich Klaproth for the Titans of Greek mythology. The element occurs within a number of mineral deposits, principally rutile and ilmenite, which are widely distributed in Earth's crust and lithosphere, and it is found in almost all living things, rocks, water bodies, and soils. The metal is extracted from its principal mineral ores via the Kroll process or the Hunter process. Its most common compound, titanium dioxide, is a popular photocatalyst and is used in the manufacture of white pigments. Other compounds include titanium tetrachloride (TiCl4), a component of smoke screens and catalysts; and titanium trichloride (TiCl3), which is used as a catalyst in the production of polypropylene.

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 process (chemicals and petro-chemicals, desalination plants, pulp, and paper), automotive, agri-food, medical prostheses, orthopedic implants, dental and endodontic instruments and files, dental implants, sporting goods, jewelry, mobile phones, and other applications.

The two most useful properties of the metal are corrosion resistance and the highest strength-to-density ratio of any metallic element. In its unalloyed condition, titanium is as strong as some steels, but less dense. There are two allotropic forms and five naturally occurring isotopes of this element, 46Ti through 50Ti, with 46Ti being the most abundant (73.8%). Although they have the same number of valence electrons and are in the same group in the periodic table, titanium and zirconium differ in many chemical and physical properties.

Physical properties

A metallic element, titanium is recognized for its high strength-to-weight ratio. It is a strong metal with low density that is quite ductile (especially in an oxygen-free environment), lustrous, and metallic-white in color. The relatively high melting point (more than 1,650 °C or 3,000 °F) makes it useful as a refractory metal. It is paramagnetic and has fairly low electrical and thermal conductivity.

Commercial (99.2% pure) grades of titanium have ultimate tensile strength of about 434 MPa (63,000 psi), equal to that of common, low-grade steel alloys, but are less dense. Titanium is 60% more dense than aluminium, but more than twice as strong as the most commonly used 6061-T6 aluminium alloy. Certain titanium alloys (e.g., Beta C) achieve tensile strengths of over 1400 MPa (200000 psi). However, titanium loses strength when heated above 430 °C (806 °F).

Titanium is fairly hard (although not as hard as some grades of heat-treated steel), non-magnetic and a poor conductor of heat and electricity. Machining requires precautions, as the material will soften and gall if sharp tools and proper cooling methods are not used. Like those made from steel, titanium structures have a fatigue limit which guarantees longevity in some applications. Titanium alloys have lower specific stiffnesses than in many other structural materials such as aluminium alloys and carbon fiber.

The metal is a dimorphic allotrope whose hexagonal alpha form changes into a body-centered cubic (lattice) ? form at 882 °C (1,620 °F). The specific heat of the alpha form increases dramatically as it is heated to this transition temperature but then falls and remains fairly constant for the ? form regardless of temperature. Similar to zirconium and hafnium, an additional omega phase exists, which is thermodynamically stable at high pressures, but is metastable at ambient pressures. This phase is usually hexagonal (ideal) or trigonal (distorted) and can be viewed as being due to a soft longitudinal acoustic phonon of the ? phase causing collapse of (111) planes of atoms.

Chemical properties

Like aluminium and magnesium metal surfaces, titanium metal and its alloys oxidize immediately upon exposure to air. Nitrogen acts similarly to give a coating of the nitride. Titanium readily reacts with oxygen at 1,200 °C (2,190 °F) in air, and at 610 °C (1,130 °F) in pure oxygen, forming titanium dioxide. It is, however, slow to react with water and air, as it forms a passive and oxide coating that protects the bulk metal from further oxidation. When it first forms, this protective layer is only 1–2 nm thick but continues to slowly grow; reaching a thickness of 25 nm in four years.

Related to its tendency to form a passivating layer, titanium exhibits excellent resistance to corrosion. It is almost as resistant as platinum, capable of withstanding attack by dilute sulfuric and hydrochloric acids as well as chloride solutions, and most organic acids. However, it is attacked by concentrated acids. As indicated by its negative redox potential, titanium is thermodynamically a very reactive metal. One indication is that the metal burns before its melting point is reached. Melting is only possible in an inert atmosphere or in a vacuum. At 550 °C (1,022 °F), it combines with chlorine. It also reacts with the other halogens and absorbs hydrogen.

Titanium is one of the few elements that burns in pure nitrogen gas, reacting at 800 °C (1,470 °F) to form titanium nitride, which causes embrittlement. Because of its high reactivity toward oxygen, nitrogen and some other gases, titanium filaments are applied in titanium sublimation pumps as scavengers for these gases. Such pumps inexpensively and reliably produce extremely low pressures in ultra-high vacuum systems.


Titanium is always bonded to other elements in nature. It is the ninth-most abundant element in Earth's crust (0.63% by mass) and the seventh-most abundant metal. It is present in most igneous rocks and in sediments derived from them (as well as in living things and natural bodies of water). Of the 801 types of igneous rocks analyzed by the United States Geological Survey, 784 contained titanium. Its proportion in soils is approximately 0.5 to 1.5%.

It is widely distributed and occurs primarily in the minerals anatase, brookite, ilmenite, perovskite, rutile and titanite (sphene). Of these minerals, only rutile and ilmenite have economic importance, yet even they are difficult to find in high concentrations. About 6.0 and 0.7 million tonnes of these minerals have been mined in 2011, respectively. Significant titanium-bearing ilmenite deposits exist in western Australia, Canada, China, India, Mozambique, New Zealand, Norway, Ukraine and South Africa. About 186,000 tonnes of titanium metal sponge were produced in 2011, mostly in China (60,000 t), Japan (56,000 t), Russia (40,000 t), United States (32,000 t) and Kazakhstan (20,700 t). Total reserves of titanium are estimated to exceed 600 million tonnes.

The concentration of Ti is about 4 picomolar in the ocean. At 100 °C, the concentration of titanium in water is estimated to be less than 10?7 M at pH 7. The identity of titanium species in aqueous solution remains unknown because of its low solubility and the lack of sensitive spectroscopic methods, although only the 4+ oxidation state is stable in air. No evidence exists for a biological role for titanium, although rare organisms are known to accumulate high concentrations.

Titanium is contained in meteorites and has been detected in the Sun and in M-type stars, which are the coolest type of star, with a surface temperature of 3,200 °C (5,790 °F). Rocks brought back from the Moon during the Apollo 17 mission are composed of 12.1% TiO2. It is also found in coal ash, plants, and even the human body.


Naturally occurring titanium is composed of 5 stable isotopes: 46Ti, 47Ti, 48Ti, 49Ti, and 50Ti, with 48Ti being the most abundant (73.8% natural abundance). Eleven radioisotopes have been characterized, with the most stable being 44Ti with a half-life of 63 years, 45Ti with a half-life of 184.8 minutes, 51Ti with a half-life of 5.76 minutes, and 52Ti with a half-life of 1.7 minutes. All of the remaining radioactive isotopes have half-lives that are less than 33 seconds and the majority of these have half-lives that are less than half a second.

The isotopes of titanium range in atomic weight from 39.99 u (40Ti) to 57.966 u (58Ti). The primary decay mode before the most abundant stable isotope, 48Ti, is electron capture and the primary mode after is beta emission. The primary decay products before 48Ti are element 21 (scandium) isotopes and the primary products after are element 23 (vanadium) isotopes.

Titanium becomes radioactive upon bombardment with deuterons, emitting mainly positrons and hard gamma rays.
An alloy is a material composed of two or more metals or a metal and a nonmetal. An alloy may be a solid solution of the elements (a single phase), a mixture of metallic phases (two or more solutions) or an intermetallic compound with no distinct boundary between the phases. Solid solution alloys give a single solid phase microstructure, while partial solutions exhibit two or more phases that may or may not be homogeneous in distribution, depending on the thermal (heat treatment) history of the material. An inter-metallic compound has one other alloy or pure metal embedded within another pure metal.

Alloys are used in some applications, where their properties are superior to those of the pure component elements for a given application. Examples of alloys are steel, solder, brass, pewter, Duralumin,phosphor bronze and an amalgam.

The alloy constituents are usually measured by mass. Alloys are usually classified as substitutional or interstitial alloys, depending on the atomic arrangement that forms the alloy. They can be further classified as homogeneous (consisting of a single phase), or heterogeneous (consisting of two or more phases) or intermetallic (where there is no distinct boundary between phases).

An alloy is a mixture of either pure or fairly pure chemical elements, which forms an impure substance (admixture) that retains the characteristics of a metal. An alloy is distinct from an impure metal, such as wrought iron, in that, with an alloy, the added impurities are usually desirable and will typically have some useful benefit. Alloys are made by mixing two or more elements; at least one of which being a metal. This is usually called the primary metal or the base metal, and the name of this metal may also be the name of the alloy. The other constituents may or may not be metals but, when mixed with the molten base, they will be soluble, dissolving into the mixture.

When the alloy cools and solidifies (crystallizes), its mechanical properties will often be quite different from those of its individual constituents. A metal that is normally very soft and malleable, such as aluminium, can be altered by alloying it with another soft metal, like copper. Although both metals are very soft and ductile, the resulting aluminium alloy will be much harder and stronger. Adding a small amount of non-metallic carbon to iron produces an alloy called steel. Due to its very-high strength and toughness (which is much higher than pure iron), and its ability to be greatly altered by heat treatment, steel is one of the most common alloys in modern use. By adding chromium to steel, its resistance to corrosion can be enhanced, creating stainless steel, while adding silicon will alter its electrical characteristics, producing silicon steel.

Although the elements usually must be soluble in the liquid state, they may not always be soluble in the solid state. If the metals remain soluble when solid, the alloy forms a solid solution, becoming a homogeneous structure consisting of identical crystals, called a phase. If the mixture cools and the constituents become insoluble, they may separate to form two or more different types of crystals, creating a heterogeneous microstructure of different phases. However, in other alloys, the insoluble elements may not separate until after crystallization occurs. These alloys are called intermetallic alloys because, if cooled very quickly, they first crystallize as a homogeneous phase, but they are supersaturated with the secondary constituents. As time passes, the atoms of these supersaturated alloys separate within the crystals, forming intermetallic phases that serve to reinforce the crystals internally.

Some alloys occur naturally, such as electrum, which is an alloy that is native to Earth, consisting of silver and gold. Meteorites are sometimes made of naturally occurring alloys of iron and nickel, but are not native to the Earth. One of the first alloys made by humans was bronze, which is made by mixing the metals tin and copper. Bronze was an extremely useful alloy to the ancients, because it is much stronger and harder than either of its components. Steel was another common alloy. However, in ancient times, it could only be created as an accidental byproduct from the heating of iron ore in fires (smelting) during the manufacture of iron. Other ancient alloys include pewter, brass and pig iron. In the modern age, steel can be created in many forms. Carbon steel can be made by varying only the carbon content, producing soft alloys like mild steel or hard alloys like spring steel. Alloy steels can be made by adding other elements, such as molybdenum, vanadium or nickel, resulting in alloys such as high-speed steel or tool steel. Small amounts of manganese are usually alloyed with most modern-steels because of its ability to remove unwanted impurities, like phosphorus, sulfur and oxygen, which can have detrimental effects on the alloy. However, most alloys were not created until the 1900s, such as various aluminium, titanium, nickel, and magnesium alloys. Some modern superalloys, such as incoloy, inconel, and hastelloy, may consist of a multitude of different components.

Heat-treatable alloys

Alloys are often made to alter the mechanical properties of the base metal, to induce hardness, toughness, ductility, or other desired properties. Most metals and alloys can be work hardened by creating defects in their crystal structure. These defects are created during plastic deformation, such as hammering or bending, and are permanent unless the metal is recrystallized. However, some alloys can also have their properties altered by heat treatment. Nearly all metals can be softened by annealing, which recrystallizes the alloy and repairs the defects, but not as many can be hardened by controlled heating and cooling. Many alloys of aluminium, copper, magnesium, titanium, and nickel can be strengthened to some degree by some method of heat treatment, but few respond to this to the same degree that steel does.

At a certain temperature, (usually between 1,500 °F (820 °C) and 1,600 °F (870 °C)), the base metal of steel (iron) undergoes a change in the arrangement of the atoms in its crystal matrix, called allotropy. This allows the small carbon atoms to enter the interstices of the crystal, diffusing into the iron matrix. When this happens, the carbon atoms are said to be in solution, or mixed with the iron, forming a single, homogeneous, crystalline phase called austenite. If the steel is cooled slowly, the iron will gradually change into its low temperature allotrope. When this happens the carbon atoms will no longer be soluble with the iron, and will be forced to precipitate out of solution, nucleating into the spaces between the crystals. The steel then becomes heterogeneous, being formed of two phases; the carbon (carbide) phase cementite, and ferrite (iron). This type of heat treatment produces steel that is rather soft and bendable. However, if the steel is cooled quickly the carbon atoms will not have time to precipitate. When rapidly cooled, a diffusionless (martensite) transformation occurs, in which the carbon atoms become trapped in solution. This causes the iron crystals to deform intrinsically when the crystal structure tries to change to its low temperature state, making it very hard and brittle.

Conversely, most heat-treatable alloys are precipitation hardening alloys, which produce the opposite effects that steel does. When heated to form a solution and then cooled quickly, these alloys become much softer than normal, during the diffusionless transformation, and then harden as they age. The solutes in these alloys will precipitate over time, forming intermetallic phases, which are difficult to discern from the base metal. Unlike steel, in which the solid solution separates to form different crystal phases, precipitation hardening alloys separate to form different phases within the same crystal. These intermetallic alloys appear homogeneous in crystal structure, but tend to behave heterogeneous, becoming hard and somewhat brittle.


The use of alloys by humans started with the use of meteoric iron, a naturally occurring alloy of nickel and iron. As no metallurgic processes were used to separate iron from nickel, the alloy was used as it was. Meteoric iron could be forged from a red heat to make objects such as tools, weapons, and nails. In many cultures it was shaped by cold hammering into knives and arrowheads. They were often used as anvils. Meteoric iron was very rare and valuable, and difficult for ancient people to work.

Iron is usually found as iron ore on Earth, except for one deposit of native iron in Greenland, which was used by the Inuit people. Native copper, however, was found worldwide, along with silver, gold and platinum, which were also used to make tools, jewelry, and other objects since Neolithic times. Copper was the hardest of these metals, and the most widely distributed. It became one of the most important metals to the ancients. Eventually, humans learned to smelt metals such as copper and tin from ore, and, around 2500 BC, began alloying the two metals to form bronze, which is much harder than its ingredients. Tin was rare, however, being found mostly in Great Britain. In the Middle East, people began alloying copper with zinc to form brass. Ancient civilizations took into account the mixture and the various properties it produced, such as hardness, toughness and melting point, under various conditions of temperature and work hardening, developing much of the information contained in modern alloy constitution diagrams.

Mercury has been smelted from cinnabar for thousands of years. Mercury dissolves many metals, such as gold, silver, and tin, to form amalgams (an alloy in a soft paste, or liquid form at ambient temperature). Amalgams have been used since 200 BC in China for plating objects with precious metals, called gilding, such as armor and mirrors. The ancient Romans often used mercury-tin amalgams for gilding their armor. The amalgam was applied as a paste and then heated until the mercury vaporized, leaving the gold, silver, or tin behind. Mercury was often used in mining, to extract precious metals like gold and silver from their ores.

Precious-metal alloys Many ancient civilizations alloyed metals for purely aesthetic purposes. In ancient Egypt and Mycenae, gold was often alloyed with copper to produce red-gold, or iron to produce a bright burgundy-gold. Gold was often found alloyed with silver or other metals to produce various types of colored gold. These metals were also used to strengthen each other, for more practical purposes. Copper was often added to silver to make sterling silver, increasing its strength for use in dishes, silverware, and other practical items. Quite often, precious metals were alloyed with less valuable substances as a means to deceive buyers. Around 250 BC, Archimedes was commissioned by the king to find a way to check the purity of the gold in a crown, leading to the famous bath-house shouting of "Eureka!" upon the discovery of Archimedes' principle.

The term pewter covers a variety of alloys consisting primarily of tin. As a pure metal, tin was much too soft to be used for any practical purpose. However, in the Bronze age, tin was a rare metal and, in many parts of Europe and the Mediterranean, was often valued higher than gold. To make jewelry, forks and spoons, or other objects from tin, it was usually alloyed with other metals to increase its strength and hardness. These metals were typically lead, antimony, bismuth or copper. These solutes sometimes were added individually in varying amounts, or added together, making a wide variety of things, ranging from practical items, like dishes, surgical tools, candlesticks or funnels, to decorative items such as ear rings and hair clips.

The earliest examples of pewter come from ancient Egypt, around 1450 BC. The use of pewter was widespread across Europe, from France to Norway and Britain (where most of the ancient tin was mined) to the Near East. The alloy was also used in China and the Far East, arriving in Japan around 800 AD, where it was used for making objects like ceremonial vessels, tea canisters, or chalices used in shinto shrines. The first known smelting of iron began in Anatolia, around 1800 BC. Called the bloomery process, it produced very soft but ductile wrought iron and, by 800 BC, the technology had spread to Europe. Pig iron, a very hard but brittle alloy of iron and carbon, was being produced in China as early as 1200 BC, but did not arrive in Europe until the Middle Ages. Pig iron has a lower melting point than iron, and was used for making cast-iron. However, these metals found little practical use until the introduction of crucible steel around 300 BC. These steels were of poor quality, and the introduction of pattern welding, around the 1st century AD, sought to balance the extreme properties of the alloys by laminating them, to create a tougher metal. Around 700 AD, the Japanese began folding bloomery-steel and cast-iron in alternating layers to increase the strength of their swords, using clay fluxes to remove slag and impurities. This method of Japanese swordsmithing produced one of the purest steel-alloys of ancient times.

While the use of iron started to become more widespread around 1200 BC, mainly because of interruptions in the trade routes for tin, the metal is much softer than bronze. However, very small amounts of steel, (an alloy of iron and around 1% carbon), was always a byproduct of the bloomery process. The ability to modify the hardness of steel by heat treatment had been known since 1100 BC, and the rare material was valued for use in tool and weapon making. Because the ancients could not produce temperatures high enough to melt iron fully, the production of steel in decent quantities did not occur until the introduction of blister steel during the Middle Ages. This method introduced carbon by heating wrought iron in charcoal for long periods of time, but the penetration of carbon was not very deep, so the alloy was not homogeneous. In 1740, Benjamin Huntsman began melting blister steel in a crucible to even out the carbon content, creating the first process for the mass production of tool steel. Huntsman's process was used for manufacturing tool steel until the early 1900s.

With the introduction of the blast furnace to Europe in the Middle Ages, pig iron was able to be produced in much higher volumes than wrought iron. Because pig iron could be melted, people began to develop processes of reducing the carbon in the liquid pig iron to create steel. Puddling was introduced during the 1700s, where molten pig iron was stirred while exposed to the air, to remove the carbon by oxidation. In 1858, Sir Henry Bessemer developed a process of steel-making by blowing hot air through liquid pig iron to reduce the carbon content. The Bessemer process was able to produce the first large scale manufacture of steel. Once the Bessemer process began to gain widespread use, other alloys of steel began to follow. Mangalloy, an alloy of steel and manganese exhibiting extreme hardness and toughness, was one of the first alloy steels, and was created by Robert Hadfield in 1882.

In 1906, precipitation hardening alloys were discovered by Alfred Wilm. Precipitation hardening alloys, such as certain alloys of aluminium, titanium, and copper, are heat-treatable alloys that soften when quenched (cooled quickly), and then harden over time. After quenching a ternary alloy of aluminium, copper, and magnesium, Wilm discovered that the alloy increased in hardness when left to age at room temperature. Although an explanation for the phenomenon was not provided until 1919, duralumin was one of the first "age hardening" alloys to be used, and was soon followed by many others. Because they often exhibit a combination of high strength and low weight, these alloys became widely used in many forms of industry, including the construction of modern aircraft.
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Aluminium is a chemical element in the boron group with symbol Al and atomic number 13. It is a silvery white, soft, nonmagnetic, ductile metal. Aluminium is the third most abundant element (after oxygen and silicon), and the most abundant metal in the Earth's crust. It makes up about 8% by weight of the Earth's solid surface. Aluminium metal is so chemically reactive that native specimens are rare and limited to extreme reducing environments. Instead, it is found combined in over 270 different minerals. The chief ore of aluminium is bauxite.

Aluminium is remarkable for the metal's low density and for its ability to resist corrosion due to the phenomenon of passivation. Structural components made from aluminium and its alloys are vital to the aerospace industry and are important in other areas of transportation and structural materials. The most useful compounds of aluminium, at least on a weight basis, are the oxides and sulfates. Despite its prevalence in the environment, no known form of life uses aluminium salts metabolically. In keeping with its pervasiveness, aluminium is well tolerated by plants and animals. Owing to their prevalence, potential beneficial (or otherwise) biological roles of aluminium compounds are of continuing interest.



Aluminium is a relatively soft, durable, lightweight, ductile and malleable metal with appearance ranging from silvery to dull gray, depending on the surface roughness. It is nonmagnetic and does not easily ignite. A fresh film of aluminium serves as a good reflector (approximately 92%) of visible light and an excellent reflector (as much as 98%) of medium and far infrared radiation. The yield strength of pure aluminium is 7–11 MPa, while aluminium alloys have yield strengths ranging from 200 MPa to 600 MPa. Aluminium has about one-third the density and stiffness of steel. It is easily machined, cast, drawn and extruded.

Aluminium atoms are arranged in a face-centered cubic (fcc) structure. Aluminium has a stacking-fault energy of approximately 200 mJ/m2.

Aluminium is a good thermal and electrical conductor, having 59% the conductivity of copper, both thermal and electrical, while having only 30% of copper's density. Aluminium is capable of being a superconductor, with a superconducting critical temperature of 1.2 Kelvin and a critical magnetic field of about 100 gauss (10 milliteslas).


Corrosion resistance can be excellent due to a thin surface layer of aluminium oxide that forms when the metal is exposed to air, effectively preventing further oxidation. The strongest aluminium alloys are less corrosion resistant due to galvanic reactions with alloyed copper. This corrosion resistance is also often greatly reduced by aqueous salts, particularly in the presence of dissimilar metals.

In highly acidic solutions aluminium reacts with water to form hydrogen, and in highly alkaline ones to form aluminates— protective passivation under these conditions is negligible. Also, chlorides such as common sodium chloride are well-known sources of corrosion of aluminium and are among the chief reasons that household plumbing is never made from this metal. However, owing to its resistance to corrosion generally, aluminium is one of the few metals that retain silvery reflectance in finely powdered form, making it an important component of silver-colored paints. Aluminium mirror finish has the highest reflectance of any metal in the 200–400 nm (UV) and the 3,000–10,000 nm (far IR) regions; in the 400–700 nm visible range it is slightly outperformed by tin and silver and in the 700–3000 (near IR) by silver, gold, and copper.

Aluminium is oxidized by water at temperatures below 280°C to produce hydrogen, aluminium hydroxide and heat:

2 Al + 6 H2O ? 2 Al(OH)3 + 3 H2

This conversion is of interest for the production of hydrogen. Challenges include circumventing the formed oxide layer, which inhibits the reaction and the expenses associated with the storage of energy by regeneration of the Al metal.


Aluminium has many known isotopes, whose mass numbers range from 21 to 42; however, only 27Al (stable isotope) and 26Al (radioactive isotope, t1?2 = 7.2×105 y) occur naturally. 27Al has a natural abundance above 99.9%. 26Al is produced from argon in the atmosphere by spallation caused by cosmic-ray protons. Aluminium isotopes have found practical application in dating marine sediments, manganese nodules, glacial ice, quartz in rock exposures, and meteorites. The ratio of 26Al to 10Be has been used to study the role of transport, deposition, sediment storage, burial times, and erosion on 105 to 106 year time scales. Cosmogenic 26Al was first applied in studies of the Moon and meteorites. Meteoroid fragments, after departure from their parent bodies, are exposed to intense cosmic-ray bombardment during their travel through space, causing substantial 26Al production. After falling to Earth, atmospheric shielding drastically reduces 26Al production, and its decay can then be used to determine the meteorite's terrestrial age. Meteorite research has also shown that 26Al was relatively abundant at the time of formation of our planetary system. Most meteorite scientists believe that the energy released by the decay of 26Al was responsible for the melting and differentiation of some asteroids after their formation 4.55 billion years ago.

Natural occurrence

Stable aluminium is created when hydrogen fuses with magnesium either in large stars or in supernovae.

In the Earth's crust, aluminium is the most abundant (8.3% by weight) metallic element and the third most abundant of all elements (after oxygen and silicon). Because of its strong affinity to oxygen, it is almost never found in the elemental state; instead it is found in oxides or silicates. Feldspars, the most common group of minerals in the Earth's crust, are aluminosilicates. Native aluminium metal can only be found as a minor phase in low oxygen fugacity environments, such as the interiors of certain volcanoes. Native aluminium has been reported in cold seeps in the northeastern continental slope of the South China Sea and Chen et al. (2011) have proposed a theory of its origin as resulting by reduction from tetrahydroxoaluminate Al(OH)4– to metallic aluminium by bacteria.

It also occurs in the minerals beryl, cryolite, garnet, spinel and turquoise. Impurities in Al2O3, such as chromium or iron yield the gemstones ruby and sapphire, respectively.

Although aluminium is an extremely common and widespread element, the common aluminium minerals are not economic sources of the metal. Almost all metallic aluminium is produced from the ore bauxite (AlOx(OH)3–2x). Bauxite occurs as a weathering product of low iron and silica bedrock in tropical climatic conditions. Large deposits of bauxite occur in Australia, Brazil, Guinea and Jamaica and the primary mining areas for the ore are in Australia, Brazil, China, India, Guinea, Indonesia, Jamaica, Russia and Suriname.
Copper is a chemical element with symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; a freshly exposed surface has a reddish-orange color. It is used as a conductor of heat and electricity, a building material, and a constituent of various metal alloys.

The metal and its alloys have been used for thousands of years. In the Roman era, copper was principally mined on Cyprus, hence the origin of the name of the metal as ?yprium (metal of Cyprus), later shortened to ?uprum. Its compounds are commonly encountered as copper(II) salts, which often impart blue or green colors to minerals such as azurite and turquoise and have been widely used historically as pigments. Architectural structures built with copper corrode to give green verdigris (or patina). Decorative art prominently features copper, both by itself and as part of pigments.

Copper is essential to all living organisms as a trace dietary mineral because it is a key constituent of the respiratory enzyme complex cytochrome c oxidase. In molluscs and crustacea copper is a constituent of the blood pigment hemocyanin, which is replaced by the iron-complexed hemoglobin in fish and other vertebrates. The main areas where copper is found in humans are liver, muscle and bone. Copper compounds are used as bacteriostatic substances, fungicides, and wood preservatives.



Copper, silver and gold are in group 11 of the periodic table, and they share certain attributes: they have one s-orbital electron on top of a filled d-electron shell and are characterized by high ductility and electrical conductivity. The filled d-shells in these elements do not contribute much to the interatomic interactions, which are dominated by the s-electrons through metallic bonds. Unlike in metals with incomplete d-shells, metallic bonds in copper are lacking a covalent character and are relatively weak. This explains the low hardness and high ductility of single crystals of copper. At the macroscopic scale, introduction of extended defects to the crystal lattice, such as grain boundaries, hinders flow of the material under applied stress, thereby increasing its hardness. For this reason, copper is usually supplied in a fine-grained polycrystalline form, which has greater strength than monocrystalline forms.

The softness of copper partly explains its high electrical conductivity (59.6×106 S/m) and thus also high thermal conductivity, which are the second highest among pure metals at room temperature. This is because the resistivity to electron transport in metals at room temperature mostly originates from scattering of electrons on thermal vibrations of the lattice, which are relatively weak for a soft metal. The maximum permissible current density of copper in open air is approximately 3.1×106 A/m2 of cross-sectional area, above which it begins to heat excessively. As with other metals, if copper is placed against another metal, galvanic corrosion will occur.

Together with caesium and gold (both yellow), and osmium (bluish), copper is one of only four elemental metals with a natural color other than gray or silver. Pure copper is orange-red and acquires a reddish tarnish when exposed to air. The characteristic color of copper results from the electronic transitions between the filled 3d and half-empty 4s atomic shells – the energy difference between these shells is such that it corresponds to orange light. The same mechanism accounts for the yellow color of gold and caesium.


Copper does not react with water but it does slowly react with atmospheric oxygen to form a layer of brown-black copper oxide which, unlike the rust which forms when iron is exposed to moist air, protects the underlying copper from more extensive corrosion. A green layer of verdigris (copper carbonate) can often be seen on old copper constructions such as the Statue of Liberty. Copper tarnishes when exposed to sulfides, which react with it to form various copper sulfides.


There are 29 isotopes of copper. 63Cu and 65Cu are stable, with 63Cu comprising approximately 69% of naturally occurring copper; they both have a spin of 3?2. The other isotopes are radioactive, with the most stable being 67Cu with a half-life of 61.83 hours. Seven metastable isotopes have been characterized, with 68mCu the longest-lived with a half-life of 3.8 minutes. Isotopes with a mass number above 64 decay by ??, whereas those with a mass number below 64 decay by ?+. 64Cu, which has a half-life of 12.7 hours, decays both ways. 62Cu and 64Cu have significant applications. 64Cu is a radiocontrast agent for X-ray imaging, and complexed with a chelate can be used for treating cancer. 62Cu is used in 62Cu-PTSM that is a radioactive tracer for positron emission tomography.


Copper is synthesized in massive stars and is present in the Earth's crust at a concentration of about 50 parts per million (ppm), where it occurs as native copper or in minerals such as the copper sulfides chalcopyrite and chalcocite, the copper carbonates azurite and malachite, and the copper(I) oxide mineral cuprite. The largest mass of elemental copper discovered weighed 420 tonnes and was found in 1857 on the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan, US. Native copper is a polycrystal, with the largest described single crystal measuring 4.4×3.2×3.2 cm.
Brass is an alloy made of copper and zinc; the proportions of zinc and copper can be varied to create a range of brasses with varying properties. It is a substitutional alloy: atoms of the two constituents may replace each other within the same crystal structure.

By comparison, bronze is principally an alloy of copper and tin. Bronze does not necessarily contain tin, and a variety of alloys of copper, including alloys with arsenic, phosphorus, aluminium, manganese, and silicon, are commonly termed "bronze". The term is applied to a variety of brasses and the distinction is largely historical. Modern practice in museums and archaeology increasingly avoids both terms for historical objects in favour of the all-embracing "copper alloy".

Brass is used for decoration for its bright gold-like appearance; for applications where low friction is required such as locks, gears, bearings, doorknobs, ammunition casings and valves; for plumbing and electrical applications; and extensively in brass musical instruments such as horns and bells where a combination of high workability (historically with hand tools) and durability is desired. It is also used in zippers. Brass is often used in situations where it is important that sparks not be struck, as in fittings and tools around explosive gases.


The malleability and traditionally attributed acoustic properties of brass have made it the metal of choice for musical instruments such as the trombone, tuba, trumpet, cornet, baritone horn, euphonium, tenor horn, and French horn which are collectively known as brass instruments. Even though the saxophone is classified as a woodwind instrument and the harmonica is a free reed aerophone, both are also often made from brass. In organ pipes of the reed family, brass strips (called tongues) are used as the reeds, which beat against the shallot (or beat "through" the shallot in the case of a "free" reed). Although not part of the brass section, snare drums are also sometimes made of brass.

Brass has higher malleability than bronze or zinc. The relatively low melting point of brass (900 to 940 °C, 1652 to 1724 °F, depending on composition) and its flow characteristics make it a relatively easy material to cast. By varying the proportions of copper and zinc, the properties of the brass can be changed, allowing hard and soft brasses. The density of brass is approximately .303 lb/cubic inch, 8.4 to 8.73 grams per cubic centimetre.

Today almost 90% of all brass alloys are recycled. Because brass is not ferromagnetic, it can be separated from ferrous scrap by passing the scrap near a powerful magnet. Brass scrap is collected and transported to the foundry where it is melted and recast into billets. Billets are heated and extruded into the desired form and size.

Aluminium makes brass stronger and more corrosion resistant. Aluminium also causes a highly beneficial hard layer of aluminium oxide (Al2O3) to be formed on the surface that is thin, transparent and self-healing. Tin has a similar effect and finds its use especially in seawater applications (naval brasses). Combinations of iron, aluminium, silicon and manganese make brass wear and tear resistant.

Brass is susceptible to stress corrosion cracking, especially from ammonia or substances containing or releasing ammonia. The problem is sometimes known as season cracking after it was first discovered in brass cartridge cases used for rifle ammunition during the 1920s in the Indian Army. The problem was caused by high residual stresses from cold forming of the cases during manufacture, together with chemical attack from traces of ammonia in the atmosphere. The cartridges were stored in stables and the ammonia concentration rose during the hot summer months, thus initiating brittle cracks. The problem was resolved by annealing the cases, and storing the cartridges elsewhere.
Bronze is an alloy consisting primarily of copper and other metals. The addition of other metals (usually tin, sometimes arsenic), produces an alloy much harder than plain copper.


Typically bronze only oxidizes superficially; once a copper oxide (eventually becoming copper carbonate) layer is formed, the underlying metal is protected from further corrosion. However, if copper chlorides are formed, a corrosion-mode called "bronze disease" will eventually completely destroy it. Copper-based alloys have lower melting points than steel or iron, and are more readily produced from their constituent metals. They are generally about 10 percent denser than steel, although alloys using aluminium or silicon may be slightly less dense. Bronzes are softer and weaker than steel—bronze springs, for example, are less stiff (and so store less energy) for the same bulk. Bronze resists corrosion (especially seawater corrosion) and metal fatigue more than steel and is a better conductor of heat and electricity than most steels. The cost of copper-base alloys is generally higher than that of steels but lower than that of nickel-base alloys.

Copper and its alloys have a huge variety of uses that reflect their versatile physical, mechanical, and chemical properties. Some common examples are the high electrical conductivity of pure copper, the low-friction properties of bearing bronze (bronze which has a high lead content— 6-8%), the resonant qualities of bell bronze (20% tin, 80% copper), and the resistance to corrosion by sea water of several bronze alloys.

The melting point of bronze varies depending on the ratio of the alloy components and is about 950 °C (1,742 °F). Bronze may be nonmagnetic, but certain alloys containing iron or nickel may have magnetic properties.
Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is a synthetic fluoropolymer of tetrafluoroethylene that has numerous applications. The best known brand name of PTFE-based formulas is Teflon by DuPont Co., which discovered the compound.

PTFE is a fluorocarbon solid, as it is a high-molecular-weight compound consisting wholly of carbon and fluorine. PTFE is hydrophobic: neither water nor water-containing substances wet PTFE, as fluorocarbons demonstrate mitigated London dispersion forces due to the high electronegativity of fluorine. PTFE has one of the lowest coefficients of friction against any solid.

PTFE is used as a non-stick coating for pans and other cookware. It is very non-reactive, partly because of the strength of carbon–fluorine bonds and so it is often used in containers and pipework for reactive and corrosive chemicals. Where used as a lubricant, PTFE reduces friction, wear and energy consumption of machinery. It is also commonly used as a graft material in surgical interventions. PTFE is a thermoplastic polymer, which is a white solid at room temperature, with a density of about 2200 kg/m3. According to DuPont, its melting point is 600 K (327 °C; 620 °F). It maintains high strength, toughness and self-lubrication at low temperatures down to 5 K (?268.15 °C; ?450.67 °F), and good flexibility at temperatures above 194 K (?79 °C; ?110 °F). PTFE gains its properties from the aggregate effect of carbon-fluorine bonds, as do all fluorocarbons. The only chemicals known to affect these carbon-fluorine bonds are certain alkali metals and fluorinating agents such as xenon difluoride and cobalt(III) fluoride.
Property Value
Density 2200 kg/m3
Melting point 600 K
Thermal expansion 135 · 10?6 K?1 
Thermal diffusivity 0.124 mm²/s 
Young's modulus 0.5 GPa
Yield strength 23 MPa
Bulk resistivity 1016 ?·m 
Coefficient of friction 0.05–0.10
Dielectric constant ?=2.1,tan(?)<5(-4)
Dielectric constant (60 Hz) ?=2.1,tan(?)<2(-4)
Dielectric strength (1 MHz) 60 MV/m
The coefficient of friction of plastics is usually measured against polished steel.] PTFE's coefficient of friction is 0.05 to 0.10, which is the third-lowest of any known solid material (BAM being the first, with a coefficient of friction of 0.02; diamond-like carbon being second-lowest at 0.05). PTFE's resistance to van der Waals forces means that it is the only known surface to which a gecko cannot stick. In fact, PTFE can be used to prevent insects climbing up surfaces painted with the material. PTFE is so slippery that insects cannot get a grip and tend to fall off. For example, PTFE is used to prevent ants climbing out of formicaria.

Because of its chemical inertness, PTFE cannot be cross-linked like an elastomer. Therefore, it has no "memory" and is subject to creep. Because of its superior chemical and thermal properties, PTFE is often used as a gasket material. However, because of the propensity to creep, the long-term performance of such seals is worse than for elastomers which exhibit zero, or near-zero, levels of creep. In critical applications, Belleville washers are often used to apply continuous force to PTFE gaskets, ensuring a minimal loss of performance over the lifetime of the gasket.
A plastic material is any of a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic solids that are malleable. Plastics are typically organic polymers of high molecular mass, but they often contain other substances. They are usually synthetic, most commonly derived from petrochemicals, but many are partially natural.

Due to their relatively low cost, ease of manufacture, versatility, and imperviousness to water, plastics are used in an enormous and expanding range of products, from paper clips to spaceships. They have already displaced many traditional materials, such as wood, stone, horn and bone, leather, paper, metal, glass, and ceramic, in most of their former uses. In developed countries, about a third of plastic is used in packaging and another third in buildings such as piping used in plumbing or vinyl siding. Other uses include automobiles (up to 20% plastic), furniture, and toys. In the developing world, the ratios may be different - for example, reportedly 42% of India's consumption is used in packaging.

Common Varieties

  • Polyester (PES) – Fibers, textiles.
  • Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) – Carbonated drinks bottles, peanut butter jars, plastic film, microwavable packaging.
  • Polyethylene (PE) – Wide range of inexpensive uses including supermarket bags, plastic bottles.
  • High-density polyethylene (HDPE) – Detergent bottles, milk jugs, and molded plastic cases.
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) – Plumbing pipes and guttering, shower curtains, window frames, flooring.
  • Polyvinylidene chloride (PVDC) (Saran) – Food packaging.
  • Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) – Outdoor furniture, siding, floor tiles, shower curtains, clamshell packaging.
  • Polypropylene (PP) – Bottle caps, drinking straws, yogurt containers, appliances, car fenders (bumpers), plastic pressure pipe systems.
  • Polystyrene (PS) – Packaging foam/"peanuts", food containers, plastic tableware, disposable cups, plates, cutlery, CD and cassette boxes.
  • High impact polystyrene (HIPS) -: Refrigerator liners, food packaging, vending cups.
  • Polyamides (PA) (Nylons) – Fibers, toothbrush bristles, tubing, fishing line, low strength machine parts: under-the-hood car engine parts or gun frames.
  • Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) – Electronic equipment cases (e.g., computer monitors, printers, keyboards), drainage pipe.
  • Polyethylene/Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (PE/ABS) – A slippery blend of PE and ABS used in low-duty dry bearings.
  • Polycarbonate (PC) – Compact discs, eyeglasses, riot shields, security windows, traffic lights, lenses.
  • Polycarbonate/Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (PC/ABS) – A blend of PC and ABS that creates a stronger plastic. Used in car interior and exterior parts, and mobile phone bodies.
  • Polyurethanes (PU) – Cushioning foams, thermal insulation foams, surface coatings, printing rollers (Currently 6th or 7th most commonly used plastic material, for instance the most commonly used plastic in cars).
Nylon is a generic designation for a family of synthetic polymers known generically as aliphatic polyamides, first produced on February 28, 1935, by Wallace Carothers at DuPont's research facility at the DuPont Experimental Station. Nylon is one of the most commonly used polymers. Key representatives are nylon-6,6; nylon-6; nylon-6,9; nylon-6,10; nylon-6,12; nylon-11; nylon-12 and nylon-4,6.

Nylon is a thermoplastic, silky material, first used commercially in a nylon-bristled toothbrush (1938), followed more famously by women's stockings ("nylons"; 1940) after being introduced as a fabric at the 1939 New York World's Fair. Nylon is made of repeating units linked by amide bonds and is frequently referred to as polyamide (PA). Nylon was the first commercially successful synthetic thermoplastic polymer. There are two common ways of making nylon for fiber applications. In one approach, molecules with an acid (-COOH) group on each end are reacted with molecules containing amine (-NH2) groups on each end. The resulting nylon is named on the basis of the number of carbon atoms separating the two acid groups and the two amines. These are formed into monomers of intermediate molecular weight, which are then reacted to form long polymer chains.

Nylon was intended to be a synthetic replacement for silk and substituted for it in many different products after silk became scarce during World War II. It replaced silk in military applications such as parachutes and flak vests, and was used in many types of vehicle tires.

Nylon fibers are used in many applications, including clothes fabrics, bridal veils, package paper, carpets, musical strings, pipes, tents, and rope.

Solid nylon is used in hair combs and mechanical parts such as machine screws, gears and other low- to medium-stress components previously cast in metal. Engineering-grade nylon is processed by extrusion, casting, and injection molding. Type 6,6 Nylon 101 is the most common commercial grade of nylon, and Nylon 6 is the most common commercial grade of molded nylon. For use in tools such as spudgers, nylon is available in glass-filled variants which increase structural and impact strength and rigidity, and molybdenum sulfide-filled variants which increase lubricity. Its various properties also make it very useful as a material in additive manufacturing; specifically as a filament in consumer and professional grade fused deposition modeling 3D printers.


  • Variation of luster: nylon has the ability to be very lustrous, semilustrous or dull.
  • Durability: its high tenacity fibers are used for seatbelts, tire cords, ballistic cloth and other uses.
  • High elongation
  • Excellent abrasion resistance
  • Highly resilient (nylon fabrics are heat-set)
  • Paved the way for easy-care garments
  • High resistance to insects, fungi, animals, as well as molds, mildew, rot and many chemicals
  • Used in carpets and nylon stockings
  • Melts instead of burning
  • Used in many military applications
  • Good specific strength
  • Transparent to infrared light (?12dB)