Two or more distinct elements combine together and lead to the formation of a mixture called an alloy. To form an alloy we need to mix two or more metals together or metals with non-metals. Typically, the alloying process includes the melting of two or more elements, pouring them together in a container followed by solidification. However, the industrial process is a bit complex.
Properties of Alloys
Interestingly the newly formed substance (alloy) has totally different properties than the parent elements. Some of them include:
1. Better Toughness
One of the most significant properties of alloys for which they were first employed into practice is their toughness. For instance, the alloy steel which is made up of iron (a metal) and carbon (non-metal), is tougher than the parent element iron. Who would have imagined adding a non-metal to metal could add strength to the resulting element.
Yet another reason to employ alloys in place of pure elements was their better performance against the corrosion, which is a natural and unwanted process of decaying of elements (mostly metals). If you take an example of the alloy bronze, a mixture of copper and tin, it is less likely to corrode than the parent element copper itself.
3. Malleability and Ductility
Malleability is the property of metals by virtue of which they are able to get transformed into sheets. Similarly, very closely related property ductility represents the property that helps substance (mostly metals) to get drawn out into wire or thread. A good example to show alloying can improve the above-stated properties is of gold. Pure gold existing in nature is very soft, so much that if you make a ring out of it, it will soon get deformed. Therefore, alloying comes to the rescue, by adding a little foreign element to the pure gold, which improves its malleability and ductility. Hence, allowing us to make a ring from gold that stays with us for a long time, and that too, without getting deformed.
4. Customizable Magnetizability
Magnetizability can be controlled by configuring the parent elements. Let us take an example, steel that is made up of iron and carbon is easily magnetized, however, steel containing manganese avoids picking up of magnetic charge. Hence the alloying process provides us with the ability to control magnetic induction.
Uses of Alloys
White gold, yellow gold, rose gold are various alloys of gold often used in the making of jewelry and accessories. Other than this, Britannia silver and sterling silver are the alloys of silver that are used to make ornaments and other decorative showpieces.
You can easily tie two ropes together, you can staple two papers together but when it comes to joining of electrical circuits, it is not that simple. For joining a wire to an electric circuit a special element is used called solder, which is an alloy of tin and lead.
Stainless steel is most widely used in the making of kitchen utensils. So, next time you drink water from stainless steel glass, remind yourself what it is actually made of.
The aircraft industry uses alloys like titanium and other aluminum alloys because they offer high tensile strength, good pressure handling, and lightweight nature.
The very famous alloy of mercury called amalgam finds its application in the medicine domain, dentists often use amalgam to fill the tooth cavities. Surgical instruments such as scissors, catheters, and needles are made up of alloys as well.
6. Alloy Wheels
A lot of us recognize alloys from alloy wheels as this is one of the most publicized uses of alloys in daily life. It does not only provide the wheels with strength but adds a stunning look to the car as well. The performance of the vehicle improves as alloy wheels are lighter than the original rims.