When it comes to metals, there are a lot of terms tossed around in the industry that may mean nothing to everyday people like you and me. Some of these terms may be ferrous and non-ferrous metals. Although the terms sound a little daunting, there really isn’t that much too them – in no time, you’ll sound like a regular smelter!
But why would you need to know what ferrous and non-ferrous metals are, and what the difference between them is? Firstly, if you are looking at recycling your old scrap, having an understanding of the industry can work greatly in your advantage. Secondly, there may be times that you come across the terms in written material, and having an understanding of what they mean can save you time and uncertainty.
So, what are ferrous and non-ferrous metals?
The word ‘ferrous’ is derived from the Latin term ‘Ferrum’ which translates to iron. This means that ferrous materials contain some percentage of iron. It is easy to tell a ferrous metal from a non-ferrous one – most alloys are magnetic, and all will present with some kind of oxidization (a reddish rust). So, if you want to tell whether a metal is ferrous, leave it outside in the weather for a while or try and pick it up with a magnet.
Some examples of ferrous metals include: steel (carbon steel, stainless steel, mild steel, etc) and iron (cast iron, wrought iron, etc).
This means, then, that non-ferrous materials are those that do not include iron or an alloy of metals that does not contain iron as a component. To tell a non-ferrous metal apart from a ferrous one, it is much simpler to conduct the test listed above to determine whether they contain iron or not. However, non-ferrous materials are known for their strength, reduced weight, higher melting point, and resistance to corrosion. All non-ferrous metals are also non-magnetic but, as some ferrous alloys are also non-magnetic, this does not really help in telling the two apart.
Some examples of non-ferrous metals include: aluminium, copper, nickel, silver, gold, tin, brass, platinum, magnesium and tungsten.
Next time you hear someone mention a metal as being ferrous or non-ferrous, don’t stop and wonder what on earth they are talking about. Remember that ferrous metals contain iron and non-ferrous metals don’t and you will never be confused again. To test whether a material is ferrous or non-ferrous, run a magnet over it – if it sticks, it is definitely ferrous.