Why are alloys popular and useful?« Back to Questions List

An alloy is a combination of different base metals. Occasionally, an alloy is prepared by mixing a metal and another element. Base metals possess their own characteristics. Alloying enhances some of the properties of base metals. Characteristics of base metals such as hardness, corrosion resistance, conductivity etc can be suitably altered through alloying. Thus alloys often have physical, mechanical, electrical and chemical properties entirely different from that of base metals. 

Alloys find wide application in engineering. They can be produced to suit the required level of conductivity, hardness or magnetic properties. Alloys can be manufactured to withstand various levels of stress, corrosion, temperature and wear and tear. The quality of end product can be improved on application of alloy of suitable features. Stainless steel alloy, mainly a combination of nickel, iron and chromium, possess better   corrosion resistance compared to iron and steel. Beryllium-copper alloy has better conductivity than the base metal copper or other copper alloys. 

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The properties of an alloy can be easily altered by changing the method of formation and treatment. The atoms of the elements in alloys have different sizes. In the alloying process, these atoms are placed into different arrangements. This makes alloys to have better properties. 

Alloys with peculiar characteristics can also be manufactured. Nitinol, a metal alloy of nickel and titanium, comes under this category. Nitinol alloys have two unique properties: shape memory effect (SME) and super elasticity.  Shape memory makes nitinol to undergo deformation at a particular temperature and regain its original shape at another temperature. Similarly, the alloy acquires enormous elasticity in a small band of specified temperature.

An alloy with required merits helps engineers to manufacture better products in a much cost effective manner. Gold does not corrode easily and the cost is more compared to iron. Iron rusts easily. Stainless steel, an alloy of iron, is less corrosive. Hence, stainless steel alloy can be used as a good substitute for gold in corrosion prone environment, at much lesser cost.  Common alloys in everyday life


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