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Metals Recall some everyday uses of iron/steel, aluminium and copper.

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September 8, 2002



  • Recall some everyday uses of iron/steel, aluminium and copper.


  • Iron is one of the three magnetic metal, there others being cobalt and nickel. Iron from the Blast Furnace contains about 5% carbon, which comes from the coke in the furnace. It is cast into moulds called pigs, and the iron is called cast iron or pig iron. It is very brittle but has a greater resistance to corrosion than either pure iron or steel.

Cast iron is used for manhole covers and as engine blocks for petrol and diesel engines. Carbon is removed from molten cast iron by bubbling oxygen through it. The oxygen reacts with the carbon in preference to the iron because carbon is more reactive.

Pure iron, which has had all the carbon removed, is called wrought iron.

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These combine to make aluminium a most versatile material. Some of the thousands of applications of aluminium include:

  • Window frames
  • Rainwater gutters and downspouts
  • Roofs
  • Walls
  • Insulation
  • Sliding doors
  • Garage doors
  • Fly wire screens
  • Venetian blinds
  • Awnings
  • Kitchen utensils
  • Refrigerators
  • Air conditioners
  • Tubular furniture
  • Electric fittings and appliances
  • Radio and TV sets
  • Handrails
  • Car engines and trim
  • Trains and freight wagons
  • Ships and boats
  • Caravans
  • Outboard motors
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Copper is mixed with other metals to form alloys. Copper alloys include brass, bronze, cupro-nickel and duralumin.

Brass is an alloy of copper (70%) and zinc (30%). Brass is harder and cheaper than copper and is used for musical instruments, corrosion resistant screws and fixtures, and ornamental objects.

Bronze is an alloy of copper (90%) and tin (10%). Bronze is hard, strong and corrosion resistant. Bronze is used for castings (statues) and bearings.

Cupro-nickel is an alloy of copper (70-80%) and nickel (20-30%). Cupro-nickel is easily shaped, resistant to corrosion and is used to make “silver” coins such as the 5, 10, 20 and 50p piece.

Duralumin is an alloy of aluminium (94%), copper (4%) and magnesium (1%). Small quantities of manganese and silicon may also be present. Duralumin is a low-density alloy, having a higher strength/weight ratio than aluminium. Duralumin is used for aircraft construction.  

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