Metal has long since established itself as a central material for construction and industrial work today, from an office building’s I-beams to the pipes in a chemical plant to a metal bellows in a factory. But there is no single, catch-all metal, not even the common steel. Examples of alloys can be found in many industrial sites today, and these examples of alloys show the ingenuity of those who develop them. All these alloys also help demonstrate how different work conditions involve different environments and materials, so some metals would suffer in places where others do just fine. Minimum yield strength, corrosion resistance, and more should be factored into stainless steel products or other metals such as nickel alloys or a copper and aluminum alloy. If someone were to explore different industries today, what examples of alloys might they find?
Put simply, an alloy is a composite of more than one metal, and alloys may vary based on the metals used in them as well as their ratios. Some alloys may contain such metals as steel, nickel, copper, titanium, or others, and the ratios vary. Some metals may make up the bulk of an alloy, and others may make up less than 1% of the alloy’s composition. Even so, such a small percentage of a given “ingredient” metal may be all that the alloy needs to gain certain properties for work. Examples of alloys show that these metals are designed with certain jobs in mind, and alloys are tailor-made for certain acidity, salinity, heat, or pressure (or even other factors). Not just any metal can be used for an underwater pipe, for example, and some metals may be all wrong for a metal bellows that contains heated gas or liquids inside.
Today, some of the most common metals used for the construction industry are steel, aluminum, copper, and stainless steel, and nickel is also common in today’s manufactured products. In fact, nickel is present in most everyday life in the United States and abroad. Nickel use is growing at a rate of 4% per year or so, and the use of nickel-containing stainless steel is growing even faster, at 6% per year. Nickel is a common and popular metal for alloys, and so is aluminum. In particular, aluminum bronze alloys can be expected to have a composition of 9-12% aluminum, and up to 6% iron and nickel. And finally, one may note that alloy steels can be split into four particular classes: tool and die steels, structural steels, magnetic alloys, and finally, stainless steel and heat-resisting steels. What sort of items might all these examples of alloys be found?
Alloys for the Job
As mentioned earlier, a particular job calls for the right metals with the correct properties, and the wrong metals may warp, melt, or otherwise suffer. Metal bellows are one such example. These are not to be confused with air-blowing furnace or fireplace bellows. Rather, a metal bellows is a flexible but tough metal tube that caries gas or liquids inside, and they may be found in factory machines or vehicle engines of all kinds. These metal bellows should be secured tightly so that no materials can leak from them, and the tube must be able to flex without ruptures or leaks of any kind. Only the right metals or alloys can be used for such a job, since the materials inside may be extremely hot, corrosive, or under high pressure. A bellows should also be regularly inspected to check ahead of time for warning signs of cracks, leaks, or any other issues that could compromise the entire assembly.
A chemical plant is another place where alloys are critical. Here, powerful acids or bases must move through tanks, pipes, valves, or pumps, and the metals or other materials must be tough enough to resist corrosion. Otherwise, the wrong materials may dissolve over time and start leaking, and this could back up the whole system and cause disaster. In fact, some pumps for chemical plants are made of chemical-resistant plastics. Underwater pipes, meanwhile, must resist the high salinity of the ocean water around them, so the proper alloys are used for their construction. Alloys protect the pipe not from their contents, but their surroundings.