You are on page 1of 16

Metals. Ferrous metals.

Iron, Steel and cast iron


In the metal ages there were three distinct periods, each of which is named for the main
metal materials which represented each period:

The Copper Age (5000 years ago): due to its low resistance, it was only used in
decorative utensils.
The Bronze Age (3000 years ago): a mix of copper and tin which had better properties
than either of the two metals separately.
The Iron Age (2000 years ago): much more resistant than bronze. The Hittites were the
first to use iron.

The first metal object made by Humans was invented about 7000 years ago. The first
metal they used was copper. However, it wasn’t very strong so they found out that when
they added tin to the copper, the mixture was stronger.
Later on, iron came and new objects become possible, such as weapons , the wheel or
the plough.
The wheel was very important in transport as it was used in carts pulled by bullocks.
The plough allowed humans to work faster and in greater areas
Human beings realised that raw materials were very important for making new tools.
The search for these new metals and raw materials was the beginning of trade.

The general properties of metals.

• Tenacity: The ability to support impacts without breaking. Metals are tenacious.
• Ductility: The ability to form wires.
• Malleability: The ability to form sheets.
• Hardness: Scratch resistance. Metals are relatively hard materials.
• Density: the quotient of the mass and volume of a form.
• Electrical and thermal conductivity: Metals conduct heat and electricity well.
• Metallic shine: Metals characteristically shine after being recently cut.
• Except mercury all metals are solid at room temperature.

These properties are partly due to the way the atoms are joined together in metals.
Let's see the inside of a metal.

Metallic bond

In a metal, the outer electrons are shared among all the atoms in the solid. Each atom
gives up its outer electrons and becomes slightly positively charged. The negatively
charged electrons hold the metal atoms together. Since the electrons are free to move,
they lead to good thermal and electrical conductivity

Classification of metals.

According to their composition:

Pure metals: Metals whose crystalline structure is composed of only one metallic
element. For example: gold, silver, iron, copper etc.
Metal alloys: These are a combination of one or two metals. For example: bronze, tin,
steel etc

According to their iron content:

Ferrous: These are iron (the pure metal) or alloys that contain iron (steels and cast
Non ferrous: These are pure metals which aren't iron (e.g. copper) or metal alloys that
don't contain iron e.g. bronze. .

The process of obtaining metals

1.-Obtaining the metals from mines.
2.- Separation of the mineral into ore and gangue. The ore is the mineral that contains
the metal we are interested in (for example, cuprite is the ore of copper). The gangue
(impurities) is of no interest (sand, mud, other elements) .
3.- Obtaining the pure metal from the mineral (reduction process).
4.- Final treatment: They better the properties of and/or change the physical form of the


Mining is an industrial activity that consists in extracting elements, compounds and

minerals, which are of some economic interest, from the earth. These extractions take
place in mines.
When we have the mineral the next thing we must do is obtain the pure metal. The most
important processes for doing this are through combustion and electrolysis


Siderurgy is the term used for the industry dedicated to obtaining iron. The iron industry
has its own name because of the enormity of the use of iron in society today. From iron
we obtain steel, which is one of the most important materials we have.
The siderurgic process takes place in installations called 'blast furnaces'. The raw
materials used are iron (Fe), the flux (CaCO3) and carbon (C).

Siderurgic processes.

The raw materials are put into the top of the blast furnace
Hot air is introduced into the lower part.
When the materials descend a chemical reaction takes place. The iron separates from the
elements which were contained in the original mineral.
The waste materials stay at the top and the molten metal comes out of the bottom (iron
+ carbon + impurities).
The molten metal is directed towards the steel industry to adjust the carbon content and
the content of the other alloy materials to improve the metals properties.

Ferrous products
The ferrous products obtained after the operations performed in the blast furnace and
the steelworks are classified according to their carbon content . That is:

Soft iron

C < 0.1 %
It's a brittle material with many bad mechanical properties. It has good magnetic
Used to create electromagnets, transformers and electrical appliances.


0.1% < C < 2%

Ductile, malleable, tenacious, they rust easily and they are harder the higher the % of
C, they can be soldered and forged.
They are used in car bodies (see picture), in construction elements, in metal sheeting,
materials made of tin and cutting instruments etc.

Cast iron

2% < C < 5%
Less ductile than steel but harder because carbon makes the metal harder but, at the
same time, more fragile. It can be melted and moulded easily.
They are used in making unusually shaped pieces and bedplates for machinery (they
absorb vibrations well.)
Manhole covers are an example of cast iron.


This is a process principally used to obtain and/or purify non-ferrous metals. The
purification or refining consists in eliminating all the impurities still left in the metal
after the reduction of the mineral. It is used to obtain copper, aluminium, magnesium,
zinc and titanium, among others. The term comes from the words electro - electricity
and lysis - break i.e. breaking because electricity is passed through. In the case of
aluminium, electrolytic refinement is called the Hall process.
Bauxite is used as a starting raw material to obtain aluminium. Using the Hall process
we can get aluminium which is 99.9 % pure.

Electrolysis - the process

1. The bauxite ( aluminium oxide mixed with impurities ), is extracted from the Earth.
It is then treated with alkali, to remove the impurities.
The aluminium is then moved to huge tanks. In the tank there is a graphite bar, this acts
as the cathode. Also there are graphite bars in the middle of the tank that act as anodes.
The aluminium is dissolved in molten cryolite. The cryolite lowers the melting point,
which reduces the energy used in this process.
Electricity is passed form cathode to anode bars.
The aluminium is taken out at the bottom


Transformer: is a device that transfers electrical energy from one circuit ( Primary )
to another ( Secondary )through the transformer's coils.
Foul Sewer: A type of underground carriage system, for
transporting sewage from houses to treatment.

Metals. No ferrous metals. Copper, Silver ..

Posted on October 24th, 2009 by Technology Department
Metals on earth

Apart from ferrous metals, there are other metals which are used alot in technological
appliances. It is worth highlighting the use of (among others) copper, bronze,
aluminium etc

Pure non-ferrous products.

Bright white colour, light, oxidation resistant, very plentiful, poor mechanical
Containers, metalwork, high tension cables and things where weight is a critical
parameter (very important) e.g. wheel hubs. (see picture)


Reddish colour, excellent thermal and electric conductor, corrosion resistant, weldable,
ductile and malleable.
It is used to make electrical conductors and central heating

It has a very low fusion point and is a bluey-white colour, shiny and very soft. It is very
useful for welding pipes and copper cables.
It also covers steel to form tin.
White colour, very corrosion and oxidation resistant, with copper it forms brass. It is
used to cover other metals and alloys to protect them (galvanised)

Non ferrous products - alloys

Alloys are made of two or more elements, examples are bronze and brass.

Bronze is made of copper and tin and it is used to make figures.

Final treatments

Molding: This is a technique that allows us to obtain metal pieces in complicated or

unusual shapes. It consists of filling a mold with a molten metal or alloy so that when
the metal cools it adopts the desired form.

Strain or stamping: This consists of straining the metals (hot and

cold) by a mechanical action until you obtain the desired form.
On the right you can see one of the oldest processes - forging

Mechanised: This consists of giving form to the metal

by cutting out a piece from a larger piece. Examples of mechanical operations are
cutting with a saw, drilling or milling.
Metals can form the following types of unions:

Permanent: destroying the union means destroying the materials that form

the union. Examples are welding and rivets.

Detachable: it is possible to end the union and recuperate the starting materials intact. It
is used in mobile elements and threaded joints like hinges.


Some of the most common tools are:

1. Rulers. They can be made of metal or wood. It is used to measure things. In England
rulers normally measure in inches, which is the same as 2.54 centimetres.

Hammers are used to hit nails in, shape things or deform them. It is made of a handle
(normally made of wood) and a head (of iron)
You must be careful when you use one because it is easy to have an accident with them
which could hurt either you or your companion.
The bench clamp is used to hold pieces (of metal or of other materials) so

that we can work with them more easily. It holds

the material firmly and we must be careful because the 'mouth' of the clamp can leave a
mark on the piece if it is soft.

Files are used to remove small bits of metal or wood and

create smoother surfaces.
There are many types of files which are defined based on what the grooves are like.

There are many types of screwdriver, some are longer than others, some are designed
for use with certain screws and others for use with other screws but all are used as


Saws: There are saws for wood and saws for metal, it depends on the teeth (some are
larger than others).
Wood saw tend to have an open arc and metal saws tend to have a closed arc (see

Screw: Image on the left

Activity 1

What metals are the following objects made from?

Steel, stainless steel, copper, aluminium, gold, brass, bronze, cast iron

Activity 2

Write the names of the processes of obtaining metallic objects and then put in order.
1-Melt the mineral 1-
2-The making of objects 2-
3-The extraction of rocks 3-
4-The breaking down of the rocks 4-
5-The mixture with other metals to become alloys 5-

Activity 3

How materials help bike construction

Read and answer:

This is what Roberto, a bike maker, says about bikes and materials.
When I choose a material for a bike , I have to think about the properties of the
material, for example:

a) How elastic is it?

b) If you bend or stretch it, will it go back to its original shape?

c) How strong is it?

There are two kinds of strength:

The first is how much force you need to bend it to a point where it can't go back to its
original shape. It is called Elasticity

The second is the Toughness, or the resistance to fracture ( break ) of a material when

• Steel is the least expensive choice. It's strong and it has good elasticity but its
• Aluminium is light and strong but its flexible. The more it bends, the quicker it
breaks. So aluminium bike frames use large diameter tubes. That limits the
amount of bending.
• Titanium has a great strength-to-weight ratio. It's got good elasticity so when it
bends it tends to return to its original shape. It's corrosion-resistant so you don't
need to paint it. But it's expensive - fifteen times the price of steel!

The professionals use carbon fibre. It's very light and it's very strong. You can shape it
any way you like. But carbon-fibre frames are hand-made so they're very expensive.

Now, Copy into your notebook the advantages and disadvantages of the following

a) Steel b) Aluminium c) Titanium d ) Carbon fibre

Activity 4.

Complete the paragraph with the correct words

Words and number: Brass , stainless steel, 1535 ºC, 1083 ºC, Steel , window frames,
carbon , Malleable, Bronze, Corrosion resistance , metals, alloy, Aluminium ,
ductile, wires, tin

Pure iron has a melting point of ________. Iron is the most used of all the ______. An
______ is a combination of two or more elements. For example, _____ is a metal alloy
whose major component is iron, with _______content between 0.02% and 2.14% by
mass. The introduction of other metallic allows the production of special purpose steels,
such as _________, made with chromium. Sinks are made of ________.
A non-ferrous metal is the copper which has a melting point of ____. Is is _________
and ______ and very suitable for hot and cold working. It is used for ____ and central
heating pipes. By far the preferred copper alloy in antiquity was ______, which is a
combination of copper and ____.

_____ is an alloy of copper with zinc and it is very Corrosion-resistant.

________ is a soft, lightweight, nonmagnetic and malleable metal. _________ has

about one-third the density of iron.
___________is excellent due to a thin surface layer of aluminium oxide that forms
when the Aluminium is exposed to air, preventing further oxidation. One of the most
popular applications is _______, cans or kitchen cooking utensils ( it is better if made
of stainless steel ).