Metals play a vital role in our everyday lives. However, it is not easy to define what a metal is. Physically, a metal is a substance that has a bright luster and is a good conductor of heat and electricity. Metals have varying degrees of hardness, density, malleability and ductility. Metals can be bent, stretched, drilled, cast, riveted, welded, cut, twisted and folded - all with great accuracy.
Generally, all metals can be classified into groups such as ferrous, non-ferrous and alloys.
The ferrous group of metals is composed mainly of iron. They may have small amounts of other metals or other elements added such as carbon, manganese, nickel, chromium, tungsten etc., to give the required properties. Most (but not all) ferrous alloys are slightly magnetic and give little resistance to corrosion e.g. all ferrous alloys will exhibit some degree of oxidation called rust which has a distinct reddish color. Most ferrous metals are slightly magnetic, however, only a few of them such as iron, nickel, cobalt and their alloys display pronounced magnetic properties, a phenomena known as ferromagnetism.
Non-Ferrous are metals which do not contain any iron as a component. They are not magnetic and are usually more resistant to corrosion than ferrous metals. Examples are aluminum, copper, lead. zinc and tin. Some non-ferrous metals can be a pure metal which means that they only consists of a single element. This means that it only has one type of atom in it. The common pure metals are: aluminum, copper, iron, lead, zinc, tin, silver and gold.
Alloys: An alloy is a new metal which is formed by mixing two or more metals and sometimes other elements together. An endless list of alloys is possible all with their own individual properties.
Metals are an especially ideal material for use in mass production such as buildings, bridges, cars, ships, aluminum pans, coins, etc. In contrast to this, precious metals like gold or silver are crafted by skilled individuals to produce rings, goblets and products of great beauty. Some metals have specialized uses; radioactive metals such as uranium and plutonium are used in nuclear power plants to produce energy via nuclear fission. Mercury is a liquid at room temperature and is used in switches to complete a circuit when it flows over the switch contacts. Shape memory alloy is used for applications such as pipes, fasteners and vascular stents.
The most used metals are: Iron, Aluminum, Copper, Titanium, Zinc, Magnesium etc.
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