Difference between steel and aluminium
Steel vs aluminium:
Steel and aluminium are materials that we see almost every day, almost everywhere. Unless one is well versed in the language of metals and their usage, he probably won’t think much about the difference between steel and aluminium. Simply looking at them might not tell much because they can also be quite similar in appearance depending on how they were polished. As a matter of fact, the first thing that pops into a person’s head when faced with this question is ‘Is there any difference at all?’ Yet, there do exist certain very distinctive differences between these two metals. Thereby, this paper aims at providing those who are blind to these differences, with a more comprehensive knowledge along with a short account of their differences.
What is steel?
Steel is the most common metal alloy in the world. In its simplest form, it consists of iron and varying amounts of carbon. Iron is the major component of steel, with carbon being a distant second, at between 0.2 per cent and 2.1 per cent by weight, depending on the grade. Other alloying elements sometimes used are manganese, chromium, vanadium and tungsten. Carbon is the most cost-effective way to alloy iron, but other metals can be used to augment the carbon and to give the metal certain properties. The metal known as cast iron is actually steel that has a very high carbon content, which gives it a lower melting point and greater castability. Steel is well-known for its strength, which is given to it precisely by the alloying elements. Though steel had been produced by various inefficient methods long before the Renaissance, its use became more common after more efficient production methods were devised in the 17th century. With the invention of the Bessemer process in the mid-19th century, steel became an inexpensive mass-produced material.
What is aluminium?
Aluminium is a non-ferrous metal that is abundantly present in nature but because it is highly reactive, it usually exists combined with over 270 different minerals, mainly bauxite compound. Aluminium or aluminium is a silvery white member of the boron group of chemical elements. Its appearance can range from something silvery to those that carry a duller gray tinge to it. This depends upon the roughness of its surface. It has the symbol Al, and its atomic number is 13. It is not soluble in water under normal circumstances. It is classified in the poor metals, sharing the property of extreme malleability with metals like tin and lead. Aluminum is a low density metal that is often used because of its innate ability to resist all sorts of corrosion. It is often used in the construction of buildings, transport vehicles as well as in the aerospace industry where many structural components have aluminium and its alloys as bases. Aluminium is the third most abundant element (after oxygen and silicon), and the most abundant metal, in the Earth’s crust. It makes up about 8 per cent by weight of the Earth’s solid surface.
What is the difference between aluminium and steel?
Steel and aluminium are widely used materials with a wide range of applications. Steel is an alloy, however, while aluminium is an element. Even then, aluminium is very reactive and whatever applications of aluminium we see now, it is usually mixed with other elements or compounds to prevent chemical reactions. Steel is very malleable compared to aluminium, but the latter is lightweight. In car manufacturing, aluminium is considered better because it gives a better weight/strength ratio. Even though steel and aluminium are quite famous for their industrial applications now, in the past steel was mostly used for weaponry while aluminium was used for dyeing and for the dressing of wounds. Basically, aluminium in all its various forms is not magnetic. Steel, on the other hand, is magnetic. However, there are types of it that are not. The difference lies in that particular type of steel’s microstructure.
Being a highly energy-intensive process, producing virgin aluminium generates more carbon dioxide emissions than producing virgin steel. Since their manufacturing processes are assumed to be similar, the amounts of carbon dioxide generated during the manufacturing stage differ slightly, being the direct result of using electricity to operate the machinery. In considering the total life-cycle of an automobile covering four stages (pre-manufacturing, manufacturing, use, and post-use), it is apparent that during the operational (use) stage of a vehicle, aluminium is proven to be a reliable alternative for traditional materials currently used in automotive body structures largely due to its cost effectiveness and superior performance due to light weight. With the gas price variation, the initial cost advantage of using steel in body components gained in pre-manufacturing and manufacturing stages can be overcome during the operational (use) stage of the vehicle, since the lighter alternative provides significant savings in terms of fuel consumption and consequently generation of airborne gas emissions. Also, the superior recyclability and reusability of aluminium in the post-use stage outweighs the traditional materials such as steel despite the higher cost involved in producing primary aluminium.