The difference between ferrous and non-ferrous metals isn’t just one, there are rather many differences.
if I’m to give the simplest difference between these two types of metals, I’m going to say — ferrous metals are those metals containing “Iron”, while non-ferrous metals are those lacking “Iron”.
I understand some of you will be confused; you may be wondering, “Isn’t metal same thing as an Iron?”
Well, let me use this opportunity to clarify this — a metal is not an iron.
Iron is an element, just like Hydrogen, Oxygen, Carbon, Silver, Vanadium, etc
As for the word “Metal”, this word refers to a family of elements; and some members of this family in question include — Iron, Silver, Copper, Gold, Tin, etc. In short, all irons are metals, but not all metals are iron.
The difference I’ve stated above is the main difference between ferrous and non-ferrous metals, but there are other differences worthwhile of being known. And I’ll be spending the rest of this content explaining the other differences.
There are a number of other things worthwhile knowing about ferrous metals. Ferrous metals are among the strongest metals in the world, in terms of tensile strength.
When we engineers want to build massive things like bridges, cranes, skyscrapers, etc, hardly do we turn to non-ferrous metals; we rather turn to ferrous metals.
Another thing worthwhile knowing about ferrous metals is that they are magnetic, thanks to the iron in them.
So, if you’ve been wondering “Are ferrous metals magnetic?”, the answer is yes.
Thanks to the magnetic characteristic of ferrous metals, ferrous metals can be used for certain things in electronics that non-ferrous metals can’t be used for.
We have a good number of ferrous metals, but the most popular among them are — carbon steel, cast iron, engineering steel, and wrought iron. Later I’ll give further details on these types of ferrous metal.
There are also a number of other things you should know about non-ferrous metals. Non-ferrous metals can be very impressive when it comes to malleability and ductility.
To help you understand what I mean by malleability and ductility, imagine trying to bend a plastic spoon vs trying to bend a glass spoon. If you apply enough force on a plastic spoon, the spoon will eventually bend without it splitting into two. But when it comes to a glass spoon, applying too much spoon will not bend it, but rather break it into two. So that phenomenon in which bending a plastic spoon won’t break it into two, is what engineers describe as malleability (and ductility). Or to put straightforwardly, a malleable and ductile thing is a thing you can bend and compress significantly, without it breaking into multiple parts.
Non-ferrous metals are metals having excellent malleability and ductility.
For instance, Gold, which is the most malleable and ductile non-ferrous material, one ounce of it can be drawn into a wire so thin that it will extend as far as 50 miles before fracturing.
Another thing worthwhile of mentioning about non-ferrous metals is that they aren’t magnetic.
While being magnetic has some benefits in electronics, so also is not being magnetic. In other words, being non-magnetic also makes non-ferrous metals useful in electronics, although in some other ways, compared to ferrous metals which are magnetic.
In the real estate industry, the most popular non-ferrous are — Aluminium, Copper, Lead, and Zinc.
More info about the most popular real-estate ferrous metals
The carbon steel, as the name implies, is a metal made from Iron and Carbon.
For those who aren’t aware, Steel is not an element, the word “Steel” rather refers to metals made from Iron and Carbon. The reason why “Carbon” is still added to “Steel”, in the term “carbon steel”, is because the volume of Carbon in carbon steel is relatively higher, compared to the other types of steel we have out there.
The carbon steel is known to be one of the hardest ferrous metals we have out there. And applications of this metal can be found in all sorts of industries ranging from construction to automobile, and so on.
One thing you should however note is that while ferrous metal has a lot of pros, it also has some cons. The biggest con of this metal is that it is more susceptible to rust, compared to some other types of ferrous metals. But don’t get me wrong, this isn’t to mean carbon steel rusts that easily.
Cast iron is also a popular ferrous metal made from Iron and Carbon. But unlike carbon steel which features only Iron and Carbon, cast iron further features Silicon.
The carbon featured by cast irons also makes them quite susceptible to rust.
While carbon steel is usually used in situations where very hard metals are needed, cast iron is used for things like water pipes, stoves, machine tools, and automobile engines.
It is also worthwhile stating that one of the special things about cast irons is that they’re more resistant to mechanical wear, compared to many other types of ferrous metals.
While the strength of carbon steel is often adequate for the needs of engineering projects, there are times when it isn’t ideal. The high carbon content of carbon steel makes it quite heavy; in other words, under situations where very strong and light materials are needed, carbon steel is not something you can turn to, you rather have to turn to things like engineering steel.
I should further state that engineering steel is made from iron, chromium, nickel, and titanium.
The three types of steels discussed above should be okay for almost any type of project you’ll need a ferrous metal for. But one reason why they aren’t used in all situations is that they are prone to rust. In other words, when you need a non-corrosive ferrous metal, then the wrought iron is what you should look at.
More info about the most popular real-estate non-ferrous metals
Aluminum is hands-down one of the most popular non-ferrous metals used in the real estate industry.
When there arises the need for a metal that is lightweight, soft and has low strength, this is the metal engineers often turn to. For instance, this metal is used indoor handles, windows, roofing sheets etc. And when it comes to rust, Aluminium has a much higher resistance, compared to ferrous metals.
Copper is another popular, non-ferrous metal.
Because it’s additionally a good conductor of electricity, one of the widest applications of this metal is in the creation of electric cables. For those who don’t know, the cables used to transfer power from dams, down to your homes, offices, etc, are significantly copper cables. In fact, your laptop charger, your rechargeable lamp charger, etc, also feature Copper.
Lead is a metal one can’t afford to leave out of a discussion about non-ferrous metals. In fact, it’s resistance to “corrosions caused by both moisture and acid”, is one of the most impressive in the world of non-ferrous metals. However, while there are a great number of situations where Lead will have been ideal, it isn’t used in all situations where it seems ideal; the reason for this is that Lead is a poisonous element. In fact, if care is not taken, this metal can cause a person’s death.
Zinc is not as popular as any of the three metals discussed above. However, this isn’t to mean it isn’t that popular.
Zinc is a metal that has an incredible resistance to rust. And as a result of this, it is often used in situations where there is a need for a material with excellent rust resistance. In fact, Zinc is something used with iron, to create steels with impressive rust resistance.
To conclude this content, if you want to know if a metal is a ferrous metal or not, simply ask yourself, is Iron one of the things the metal was made from? If the answer is yes, then the metal is a ferrous metal. But if the answer is no, then the metal is a non-ferrous metal.
I should probably state that — the word ferrous was derived from the word Ferrum, the Latin word for “Iron”.