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Design & Technology

Materials

Metals

Molten iron being poured into steel-making furnace

Metal is made from metal ores, which have to be mined and processed to transform them into usable materials. It is rare for metals to be used in pure form. Normally they are mixed with other metals to improve their properties: the mixture is called an alloy. Most metals are good conductors.

There are two main types of metal alloys: ferrous and non-ferrous. Ferrous metals contain iron. Non-ferrous metals do not contain iron. Both types of metals can be recycled.

Ferrous metals

The most common type of ferrous metal is low-carbon steel. This contains up to 0.3 percent carbon. It is stronger than most non-ferrous metals, woods and plastics. Compared to other metals, it is easy to machine, tough and cheap. However, it is prone to corrosion and rusting.

Non-ferrous metals

Most of the common non-ferrous metals have good corrosion resistance. These include:

  • Aluminium alloys: lighter than steel, but more expensive and not as strong.
  • Copper: one of the best electrical conductors. This is commonly used to make electrical wires.

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