Specialty nonferrous metals and alloys are non-iron-based metals or alloys with specialized or proprietary compositions or properties and are specifically engineered for certain service conditions.
There are different variations of specialty nonferrous metals and alloys made for different conditions and services. They can be categorized by material composition.
- Hafnium is a shiny, silvery, ductile metal that is corrosion-resistant and has similar properties to zirconium. Halfnium is largely produced as a bi-product of zirconium mineral ore purification. It is used primarily as the material for control rods in nuclear reactors. It also has limited use as an alloy with titanium, tantalum, and various other metals as well as a material for the manufacture of microprocessors.
- Zirconium is a lustrous, grayish-white, soft, ductile, and malleable metal. At low purities it becomes hard and brittle and must be separated from halfnium to be used most effectively. It is highly resistant to multiple types of corrosion. Most zirconium is utilized for high temperature applications in its ore form zircon. A few specialized applications for zirconium metal also exist including use in the nuclear, space, and aeronautic industries.
- Beryllium is a steel-grey, strong, lightweight, and brittle metal and is one of the only low-density metals known to be toxic. Beryllium is primarily used as a hardening agent in alloys, notably beryllium copper. It also is used in structural, aerospace, and heat transport applications because of its favorable density and thermal conductivity. Because of its toxicity, it is relatively used in commercial applications.
- Tantalum is a dark blue-grey, dense, ductile, very hard, brittle, and highly conductive metal. It is renowned for its corrosion resistance and has a very high boiling point (3017°C). It is mainly used in tantalum capacitors in equipment such as cell phones, DVD players, game systems, and computers. It is also used for laboratory equipment and as a substitute for platinum.
- Osmium is a hard, brittle, blue-gray or blue-black metal. It is one of the platinum group members (PGM) and is the densest natural element. It is difficult to machine, form, or work because of its high melting point and hardness. It is used almost exclusively as an alloy with other metals. Applications for osmium alloys include fountain pens, instrument pivots, electrical contacts, and fingerprint detection pads.
Specifications and Properties
Selecting metals and metal alloys requires an analysis of the desired specifications. Dimensions to consider include outer diameter (OD), inner diameter (ID), overall length, and overall thickness. Other specifications of importance (based on application) include product shape, tensile strength, yield strength, melting point, conductivity, corrosion resistance, ductility, and malleability. These properties differ based on the material or alloy composition.
Specialty metals are used in a large number of specialized or custom applications. The aerospace, nuclear, medical, chemical processing, and electronics industries are examples of fields implementing these metals. Zirconium and hafnium are also used as alloys in metallic glasses.