Ferrous and Ferrous materials

When speaking of ferrous and non-ferrous (or ferric) materials, we refer exclusively to metallic materials, according to the presence or absence of iron as one of its components.

With the exception of pure iron (in its various grades), most ferrous metals are the product of alloys or mixtures of iron and other materials , such as carbon. While non-ferrous metals can be either elemental (consisting of a single atomic element ) or other alloys devoid of iron.

Properties of ferrous materials

Ferrous materials, the fourth most common type of metals in the earth’s crust, are distinguished from non-ferrous in their combination of resistance, malleabilitygreat conduction of heat and electricity, as well as the possibility of reusing them from their casting and new forging, but above all for its high response to magnetic forces ( ferromagnetism ).

Thanks to the latter, ferrous material can be separated from non-ferrous material in urban waste by means of magnetic separation procedures.

This is why they are highly demanded at an industrial level throughout the world, constituting between 1 and 2% of all domestic waste (especially food cans), due to its relatively low price and its high capacity for alloying with other metals to gain new attributes and improve their properties.

Types of ferrous materials

All of the ferrous metals fit into one of these three types, according to the elements that make them up:

  • Pure iron and sweet iron. With very low amounts of carbon or, although rare, in a state of purity.
  • Steels . Iron alloys and other materials (carbon and silicon, mainly), in which the latter material never exceeds 2% of the content.
  • Foundries . With the presence of carbon or other materials in a measure greater than 2%.

Examples of ferrous materials

  1. Pure iron . This material, of the most abundant of the planet, a metallic silver gray magnetic, high hardness and density. It is considered pure when it is integrated into 99.5% of atoms of the same element, and yet it is not very useful, given its brittleness (it is brittle), its high melting point (1500 ° C) and rapid oxidation to normal conditions.
  2. Sweet iron . Also called wrought iron , it has a very low carbon content (it does not reach 1%) and is one of the purest commercial varieties of iron that exist. It is useful for alloys and forging, after heating it to very high temperatures and red hot hammering, as it cools and hardens very quickly.
  3. Carbon steel . Known as construction steel, it is one of the main iron derivatives produced in the steel industry and one of the most widely used in the world. It is produced from the mixture with carbon in variable proportions: 0.25% in mild steel, 0.35% in semi-sweet, 0.45% in medium-hard and 0.55% in hard.
  4. Silicon steel . Also called electrical steel, magnetic steel, or transformer steel, which already reveals which industry it is mostly used in, it is the product of an alloy of iron with a varying degree of silicon (0 to 6.5%), as well as manganese and aluminum (0.5%). Its main virtue is that of having a very high electrical resistance.
  5. Stainless steel . This iron alloy is very popular, given its high resistance to corrosion and the action of oxygen ( oxidation ), a product of its manufacture from chromium (10 to 12% minimum) and other metals such as molybdenum and nickel.
  6. Galvanized steel . This is the name given to iron covered with a layer of zinc, which being a much less oxidizable metal, protects it from the air and considerably delays its corrosion. This is extremely useful for making pipe parts and plumbing tools.
  7. Damascus steel . The origin of this specific type of alloy is supposed to be in the Middle East (The Syrian city of Damascus) between the 11th and 17th centuries, when swords made of this material were widely quoted in Europe, due to their great hardness and “almost eternal” edge. . The exact technique used to obtain it at the time is still debated, although today it has been replicated for a wide range of iron knives and cutting utensils.
  8. Wootz steel . This steel is traditionally obtained by mixing iron residues (ores or pig iron) with charcoal of vegetable origin and glass, in furnaces at high temperatures. This alloy has numerous carbides that make it particularly hard and non-deformable.
  9. Iron foundries . This is the name given to the high carbon alloys (between 2.14 and 6.67% typically) to which iron is subjected, to obtain substances with higher density and brittleness (white cast iron) or more stable and machinable (cast iron gray).
  10. Permalloy . Magnetic iron and nickel alloy in various proportions, characterized by high magnetic permeability and electrical resistance, which makes it ideal for making sensors, magnetic heads and other implements in the industry.

Examples of non-ferrous materials


  1. Copper . With a chemical symbol Cu, it is one of the elements on the periodic table. It is a ductile metal and a good transmitter of electricity and heat, which is why it is often used abundantly in telecommunications and not so much in tasks that require hardness.
  2. Aluminum . Another great electrical and thermal conductor, aluminum is one of the most popular metals today, due to its low density, lightness and low oxidation, as well as very low toxicity, making it ideal for making food containers.
  3. Tin . Commonly used to protect steel from oxidation, it is a dense, brightly colored metal that, when bent, emits a crunch that is called the “tin scream”. It is very soft and flexible at room temperature, but when heated it becomes brittle and brittle.
  4. Zinc . Highly resistant to rust and corrosion, which is why it is often used in galvanizing processes, this element is light and economical, so it has a high industrial demand in our times.
  5. Brass . It is a copper and zinc alloy (between 5 and 40%), which improves the tensile strength of both metals without taking away their lightness and low density. It is widely used in the manufacture of hardware, plumbing parts and tools in general.
  6. Bronze . With a copper base alloy and an addition of 10% tin, this metal is obtained that is more resistant than brass and highly ductile, which has played an important role in the history of humanity, to the point of giving its name to an age of civilization. It is used in statues, accessory pieces and keys, among thousands of other uses.
  7. Magnesium . Very abundant in the earth’s crust and dissolved in the waters of the sea, this metallic element constitutes certain ions essential for life on the planet, despite the fact that it is not usually found in the free state in nature, but as part of larger compounds. Reacts with water and is highly flammable.
  8. Titanium . Lighter than steel, but also more resistant to corrosion and of such hardness, it is an abundant metal in nature (never in its purest form) but expensive for man, so it is not overly used. It is used in the manufacture of medical prostheses very frequently.
  9. Nickel . Another ductile, malleable, hard silver-white metallic chemical element that is resistant to oxidation and, despite not being ferrous, has very notable magnetic properties. It is also an important part of numerous vital organic compounds .
  10. Gold . Another of the precious metals, perhaps the best known and coveted given its commercial and economic appreciation. Its color is bright yellow and it is a ductile, malleable and heavy element, which reacts to cyanide, mercury, chlorine and lye.


It can serve you: Examples of Malleable Materials

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