Metals have many uses, and the type of metal used for a particular function will depend upon the qualities of that metal. It is important to know which metals are stronger, so that the most appropriate metal is used for a given job. Strength is especially important when metals are used for tools, construction and transportation.
Almost all metals in use today are in an alloyed form rather than a pure state. The process of alloying involves combining two or more substances together while molten. Combining the metals in the right proportions results in a new metal mixture, or alloy, that may have enhanced features such as increased strength, conductivity, malleability or resistance to rust. The particular mixture of substances in the alloyed metal will depend on the use to which it will be put. Metals used in wiring need to be malleable and conductive, while metals used in construction usually need to be strong. Since the qualities of the alloy may be affected by the ratios of different substances combined as well as the particular substance used, the number of different alloys is practically limitless.
When discussing the strength of metals and other materials, it is important to remember that there is more than one type of strength. Yield strength is the degree to which a material can be put under stress until its elasticity fails and it is deformed permanently. The force required to make the material bend permanently and not bounce back would be its yield strength.
The tensile strength of a material is the amount of pulling force that can be applied before it weakens and breaks. If something were suspended from a wire, the amount of weight that could be suspended before the wire snapped would be the wire's tensile strength. The two types of strengths don't always go hand in hand. In many cases, substance A may have a higher yield strength than substance B, but substance B may have the higher tensile strength.
Comparison of Metals
Although the order varies slightly according to which strength is being looked at, the top 10 metals are the same for each strength. In fact, the top four metals in each list are all iron alloys: maraging steel, which has high contents of nickel, cobalt, and molybdenum; some of the stainless steel alloys with differing amounts of chromium, silicon, nickel, and manganese; other steel alloys with smaller amounts of nickel and traces of molybdenum and carbon; and an alloy called steel iron-nickel, which has some nickel and a trace of carbon. The fifth strongest metal is an alloy called inconel, which is mostly nickel, but has large amounts of chromium and iron as well, and smaller amounts of niobium, molybdenum, titanium, and aluminum. The sixth strongest metal is another iron alloy, tool steel, with tungsten, molybdenum, chromium and vanadium added. No. 7 is a tungsten alloy with nickel and copper. Eight and nine are a titanium alloy with aluminum added, and a cobalt-chromium alloy with additions of tungsten, nickel, and carbon. No. 10 on both lists is pure titanium.
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images