Aluminium, copper and gold are useful metals. The table shows common alloys that contain these metals.
|Magnalium||Aluminium and magnesium|
|Brass||Copper and zinc|
|Jewellery gold||Gold and copper|
The uses of metals are related to their properties.
Aluminium does not react with water. Its surface is protected by a natural layer of aluminium oxide that allows the metal to resist corrosion. Aluminium foil is used in the home for wrapping and storing food because it does not react to substances in food. It is malleable, so it is easily folded into shape around the food.
Aluminium has a low density, so pieces of aluminium are relatively lightweight. Magnalium is stronger than aluminium alone but still has a low density. It is used to make aircraft parts.
Copper and brass resist corrosion and are good electrical conductors. Copper is a better conductor than brass, and it is used in electrical wiring. Brass is stronger than copper, so it is used for the pins in electrical plugs.
Gold is a very soft and malleable metal. It is also very unreactive, so it resists corrosion and stays shiny. The gold used for jewellery is gold alloyed with other metals, often copper. This makes the jewellery much stronger while keeping its ability to stay shiny.
|Mild steel||Carbon||Malleable, ductile|
|Tool steel||Tungsten||Hard, resistant to high temperatures|
|Stainless steel||Chromium||Hard, resistant to rusting|
Mild steel is useful for making car body parts because it is easily pressed into shape. Although mild steel rusts, it can be protected by galvanising and painting. Tool steel is useful for making drill bits. These do not easily become damaged by the heating caused by friction during drilling.
Explain why stainless steel is used to make washing machines and dishwashers.
Washing machines and dishwashers contain water. This would cause other steels to rust, but stainless steel does not rust.
Converting pure metals into alloys often increases the strength of the product. For example, brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. It is stronger than copper or zinc alone:
|Metal||Relative tensile strength|
Solid metals have a regular lattice structure. When a force is applied to a metal, layers of atoms can move past each other. The more difficult it is for the layers to move, the more force is needed and the stronger the metal.
Copper and zinc atoms have different sizes. This distorts the regular lattice structure in brass, so layers of atoms cannot slide over each other so easily. This makes brass stronger than copper or zinc alone.