How Do the Alloying Elements Affect Properties of Steels?

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alloying elements

Aluminum, chromium, manganese, molybdenum. What is the role of the alloying elements on the properties of steels? When and why are they used?

Aluminum and Chromium. Why are they used?

During the preparation of the steel, aluminum (Al) is used both as

  • a deoxidizer (or flux)
  • a refining agent

of the metal grain. For all those fine-grained steels.


Chromium (Cr), on the other hand, has a very important role in the processing of steel. This, in fact, increases:

  • the hardenability
  • the resistance and hardness (after the heat-treat)
  • the stability of tempering
  • the wear resistance.

In addition, this alloying element is able to

  • improve the combination of toughness/resistance
  • reduce the overheating sensitivity.

What determines the chrome? In particular determines

  • the resistance to corrosion and hot oxidation
  • the high temperature mechanical resistance (alias creep resistant).
Be a look to copper.

After speaking about aluminum and chromium, we want to focus on copper (Cu). The latter passes by a primary condition (extracted minerals) to a refined one. This is produced by refining both of the raw one and the obtained from the recycling of scrap. Together with steel, encourages the formation of cracks. The copper during hot working, localizes to the surface and is particularly harmful. Why copper is added to steel? In CORTEN steels (low-alloy material), for example, copper improves resistance to atmospheric oxidation.

Manganese for construction steels.

The last alloying element that we will discuss today is the Manganese (Mn) which is always present in iron ores. How does this element? Such as aluminum, it can act as a flux (or deoxidizing). In addition, it also acts as desulfurizer. An high percentage of this element can increase the rate of strain hardening (such as manganese steels). High strength of steels depends on their chemical composition, as well as the addition of alloying elements such as manganese. This item, for example, can improve the combination strength-toughness on structural construction steels (building material used in the field of civil engineering). Manganese behaves similar to nickel (Ni) and, in the absence of the latter, it is used in place as gammageno element in certain types of steels.

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