The question “What is the strongest metal?” may initially seem straightforward, but the answer is more complicated than you might think. For example, some metals may have an edge in yield strength but fall short in compressive strength. In this article, we will explore the four main types of metal strength and outline some practical applications for each type so you can make an informed decision on what material you should use for your next project.
Tensile Strength: Defining the Strongest Metals
Tensile strength, also known as ultimate tensile strength (UTS), is one of the main factors to look at when determining the durability of a metal. Tensile strength is often calculated by applying a force along the length of a metal and measuring the breaking pressure. This is usually performed using a tensile test where a piece of metal shaped like a rod or wire is pulled from both ends, and the force is measured.
Metals High in Tensile Strength
- Tungsten: With a tensile strength of around 980 MPa, it is considered one of the toughest metals in pure form. It is primarily used in industries that require materials to withstand high temperatures.
- Inconel: With a tensile strength of around 965 MPa, it is a solid and corrosion-resistant nickel-chromium alloy. It is used for 3D printing and gas turbine engines. It also has exceptional strength in cryogenic conditions
- Steel: High-carbon steel can withstand up to 860 MPa of stress before breaking. This makes it an excellent choice for highly durable and robust applications. Construction, automotive, and aerospace industries rely heavily on high-carbon steel. Need custom parts cut for a project? Get an instant quote here.
Compressive Strength: The Hardest Metals
Compressive strength is another crucial factor when determining the durability of a material. It refers to the ability of a material to resist forces pushing in on it. Compressive strength is quantified by the maximum amount of compressive stress a material can withstand before failure occurs. A compressive test is often used to determine this strength, where a material is compressed between two plates until it breaks or deforms. The Mohs hardness scale is used to measure compressive strength. Here are some of the hardest metals measured on the Mohs scale, a scale ranking metals from 1-10, 10 being the hardest.
Metals High in Compressive Strength
- Tungsten: One of the hardest metals, boasting a very high 7.5 on the Mohs Hardness scale. Tungsten’s compressive strength is utilized in manufacturing heavy-duty industrial machinery and equipment. Its ability to keep its form under intense pressure makes it helpful in constructing mining and drilling tools.
- Hardened Steel: Perhaps the most widely used metal on this list, steel has an impressive compressive strength of 7 on the Mohs scale, just softer than tungsten. That being said, steel is a lighter metal and usually is less expensive. Making it a go-to metal for many applications.
- Titanium: Another one of the strongest metals in terms of compressive strength, making it a great choice for parts that require high durability and strength. Coming in at a 6 on the Mohs scale, it is commonly used in the aerospace industry for its ability to withstand extreme temperatures and pressures.
Yield Strength: Metals That Can Take a Beating
Yield strength refers to the maximum stress a material can withstand without experiencing permanent deformation. Once a material has exceeded its yield strength, it will no longer return to its original shape when the applied stress is removed.
Yield strength is typically measured using a stress-strain test where a material sample is subjected to consistent bending until it deforms. The point at which the material begins to bend without increasing the load it carries is identified as the yield point, and the corresponding stress is the yield strength of the material.
- The construction industry: Requires materials with high yield strength, such as steel and titanium, for building resilient structures.
- The automotive Industry: Relies on metals like steel and aluminum due to their substantial yield strength, allowing cars to endure significant stresses and strains.
- The aerospace industry: Metals with high yield strength, such as titanium and nickel alloys, are regularly used. These metals can withstand the extreme pressures and temperatures of aircraft and spacecraft manufacturing.
- The manufacturing industry: Steel and tungsten are used for producing durable tools and machinery due to their impressive yield strength.
Impact Strength: The Most Resilient Metals
Impact strength, or toughness, describes a material’s ability to absorb energy before fracturing. It’s a critical property for metals used in applications where they will experience sudden loads. High impact strength ensures a material can withstand shock and sudden stresses without breaking, providing safety and durability in these applications.
Testing for impact strength typically involves subjecting a material sample to a sudden load or force and measuring the energy it absorbs before it fractures. This is often done using a Charpy or Izod impact test, where the sample is held at one end and struck with a pendulum.
Metals High in Impact Strength
- Iron: A very ductile material with high impact strength, even at low temperatures.
- Titanium: This metal has superior corrosion resistance and high toughness. It’s often seen in medical implants and other industries due to its impressive fracture resistance.
- Nickel: Nickel alloys are renowned for their strength and corrosion resistance, making them ideal for applications such as pipes, valves, fasteners, and chemical equipment.
Five of the Strongest Metals: An Overview
- Tungsten: Known for having the highest tensile strength among metals, tungsten tends to be wildly used in industries requiring materials to withstand extreme temperatures. Some examples include the construction of rocket engine nozzles and other high-temperature environments.
- Steel: Known for its excellent tensile strength and durability, making it a popular option for construction, automotive manufacturing, and various other industries. Although, it is important to consider what type of steel is best for your needs before starting your project.
- Chromium: Chromium is used frequently in the stainless steel industry due to its ability to resist corrosion and its hardness in alloys. This makes chromium a vital element in applications demanding durability and resistance to environmental factors.
- Titanium: Titanium’s excellent strength-to-weight ratio makes it a staple in the aerospace industry, where it is used for components like jet engines and spacecraft parts. In fact, titanium is as strong as steel but around 45% lighter.
- Vanadium: When alloyed with other metals, it forms strong, durable materials. It tends to be a valuable component in car manufacturing and construction applications.
These metals’ remarkable strength is often attributed to their atomic structure and ability to form alloys, further enhancing their inherent properties, and enabling superior performance in diverse applications and projects. Understanding the distinctions between these types of metal strength is essential for choosing suitable material to meet the specific requirements of your project, ensuring its success.
Learn What Metal is Best for Your Parts Project with H&K Fabrication
Understanding the strength of metals is a multifaceted process that involves assessing tensile, compressive, yield, and impact strengths. Each type of strength has its benefits, making certain metals more suitable for specific applications. Whether you need a metal that can withstand high tension, compression, bending, or impact, there is a metal out there that fits the bill.
For most projects, carbon/mild steel has all of the strength that you’ll need. If you need custom cut parts, we can supply them quickly and affordably. Get an free quote for our laser cutting services today!