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Chemistry - Main Metals & Alloys

There are 65 metals that exist naturally on Earth. Of these, just 20 are used, on their own or as part of an alloy, to produce nearly all manufactured metal-based products.

Here are 25 main metals that are used:

Aluminium – a very light, silvery-white metal that is resistant to corrosion. It is extracted from its ore bauxite by electrolysis. Aluminium is used in overhead electric cables, aircraft, ships, cars, drinks cans, and kitchen foil.

Brass – an alloy of copper and zinc. It is easily shaped and is used for decorative ornaments, musical instruments, screws and tacks.

Bronze – an alloy of copper and tin. It resists corrosion and is easily shaped. Coins made of bronze are used as low-value currency in many countries.

Calcium – a malleable, silvery-white metal found in limestone and chalk. It also occurs in animal bones and teeth. It is used to make cement and high-grade steel.

Chromium – a hard, grey metal used to make stainless steel and for plating other metals to protect them, or give them a shiny, reflective finish.

Copper – a malleable, reddish metal used to make electrical wires, hot water tanks and the alloys, brass, bronze and cupronickel.

Cupronickel – an alloy make from copper and nickel, from which most silver-coloured coins are produced.

Gold – a soft, unreactive, bright yellow element that is used for jewellery and in electronics.

Iron – a malleable, grey-white magnetic metal extracted from its ore haematite by melting it in a blast furnace. It is used in building and engineering, and to make the alloy steel.

Lead – a heavy, malleable, poisonous, blue-white metal extracted from the mineral galena and used in batteries, roofing and as a shield against radiation from X-rays.

Magnesium – a light silvery-white metal that burns with a bright white flame. It is used in rescue flared, fireworks and in lightweight alloys.

Mercury – a heavy, silvery-white, poisonous liquid metal used in thermometers, dental amalgam for filling teeth, and in some explosives.

Platinum – a malleable, silvery-white unreactive metal used for making jewellery, in electronics and as a catalyst.

Plutonium – a radioactive metal produced by bombarding uranium in nuclear reactors and used in nuclear weapons.

Potassium – a light, silvery, highly reactive metal. Potassium compounds are used as fertilizers and to make glass.

Silver – a malleable, grey-white metal that is a very good conductor of heat and electricity. It is used for making jewellery, silverware and photographic film.

Sodium – a very reactive, soft, silvery-white metal that occurs in common salt and is used in street lamps and in the chemical industry.

Solder – an alloy of tin and lead that has a low melting point and is used for joining wires in electronics.

Steel – an alloy of iron and carbon that is one of the most important metals in industry. Stainless steel, and alloy of steel and chromium, resist corrosion and are used in aerospace industries.

Tin – a soft, malleable, silvery-white metal. It is used for tin-plating steel to stop it corroding, and in the alloys bronze, pewter and solder.

Titanium – a strong, white, malleable metal. It is very resistant to corrosion and is used in alloys for spacecraft, aircraft and bicycle frames.

Tungsten – a hard, grey-white. It is used for lamp filaments, in electronics and in steel alloys for making sharp-edged cutting tools.

Uranium – a silvery-white, radioactive metal used as a source of nuclear energy and also in nuclear weapons.

Vanadium – a hard, white, poisonous metal used to increase the strength and hardness of steel alloys. A vanadium compound is used as a catalyst for making sulfuric acid.

Zinc – a blue-white metal extracted from the mineral zinc blende. It is used as a coating on iron to prevent rusting. It is also used in certain electric batteries and in alloys such as brass.

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