Interesting Facts About Alloys: They’re Stronger Than Pure Metals

An alloy is a mixture of metals, or of metals and other substances. Mixing metals and other elements in alloys can improve their properties. Compounds that involve metals but do not have metallic properties are not alloys.
Alloys are made to fit a specific purpose. They may be stronger, conduct electricity better, or be more durable than the original metal, depending on what they’re needed for.
Alloying occurs naturally; most raw gold, for example, is alloyed with silver, and natural nickel-iron alloys occur both in terrestrial rocks and as a common ingredient of meteorites. However, all alloys used for modern technological purposes are created industrially. For instance, Amalgram, used for dental fillings, is made from mercury, tin, silver, zinc, and copper.
Solid solution is the process of making an alloy by melting the components and mixing them whereas powder metallurgy is the process of making an alloy by crushing the components into powders and combining them. Ion implantation refers to a precise method of making alloys by firing ions into the metal.
This is necessary both because most raw metals exist as chemical compounds in rocks and because the balance of ingredients in a useful alloy must be precise.
In a given alloy, one metal is usually present in higher concentration than any other element; this is termed the parent metal or solvent of the alloy. Most alloys are solid at room temperature, and are assumed to be in the solid state when their properties are specified.
Three common alloys are steel (parent metal iron, main additive carbon), bronze (parent metal copper, main additive tin), and brass (parent metal copper, main additive zinc). The alloy bronze is a mixture of the metals copper and tin. It is resistant to water corrosion and is used in outdoor structures.
Without further ado, let’s look at some interesting facts about alloys:
1. Alloys are stronger than pure metals. A pure metal has identical atoms arranged in regular layers. The layers slide over each other easily. Alloys are harder and stronger because the different-sized atoms of the mixed metals make the atomic layers less regular, so they cannot slide as easily.
2. The nature of the mixing in an alloy depends on the chemical properties of its ingredients. The atoms of the different elements in an alloy can be roughly classed as indifferent to each other, as attracting each other, or as repelling each other.
If all atoms in an alloy are indifferent to each other, they mix randomly and produce an alloy that is uniform at all levels above the atomic. Such an alloy is termed a random solid solution.
If the atoms of unlike elements in an alloy attract each other, some orderly pattern develops when the alloy cools from its molten to its solid state. Such a solid is termed a superlattice or ordered solid solution.
3. Many people believe steel is an alloy of iron and nickel, but actually steel is an alloy consisting primarily of iron, always with some carbon, with any of several metals.
4. The first alloy to be discovered was Bronze. Bronze is made from copper and tin. Bronze was discovered a very long time ago in the prehistoric period. Then, bronze was being used for making tools and weapons. This period was known as Bronze Age.
But, later better alloys were discovered which replaced bronze for making tools and weapons. Now, bronze is used for making ornaments, statues, and bells. Brass is another alloy made from copper and zinc.
5. If an alloy has only two types of atoms, like copper-nickel alloy, then such an alloy is called binary alloy. If an alloy has three types of atoms, like nickel, chromium and iron, then it’s called a ternary alloy. An alloy with four types of atoms is called a quaternary alloy and an alloy with five types of atoms is called a quinary alloy.
6. Solder is an alloy that is used to bond metals to each other. Most solder is an alloy of lead and tin. Special solders exist for other applications. For example, silver solder is used in the manufacture of sterling silver jewelry. Fine silver or pure silver is not an alloy and will melt and join to itself.

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