Materials Miscellaneous

What is Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Metals, Their Definition List and Properties.

In this article, I’ll do my best to teach you in simple words. After reading this guide I am 100% sure that you’ll understand, that what is Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Metals, Its properties, definition and their list. So let’s begin.

Ferrous Metals:

The ferrous group of metals include all the types of iron, steel and their alloys. Actually Iron (Fe) is the principal element of Ferrous Materials.

In present, their role in the engineering industries can be easily described as “most dominating”.

In all the jobs ranging from the manufacture of a primitive type of agricultural implements to advanced types of Air Crafts, ferrous metal and their alloys occupy a prominent position.

In the automotive, building and bridge construction, railways, light and heavy machinery, shipping and transportation, and in any other field of engineering activity, it may not be possible to move ahead without metals. This is explained by a number of reasons:

  1. The wide abundance of iron ore in almost all parts of the world
  2. The economical extraction iron from its ore.
  3. The flexibility that can be induced in the mechanical properties of iron by combining it with other metals and/or by heat treatment and such other methods.

These facts explain the reason that for the considerable time, the annual global production of Ferrous Metals has been far in excess than the combined production of all Non-Ferrous Metals produced in all the countries of the world.

Ferrous Metals List | Their Types and Properties:

(1). Pig Iron:

Pig Iron is the first or basic form in which iron is prepared as a metal from its ores. It is, therefore, impure and crude and requires subsequent processing to develop Cast, Wrought iron and Steel, which are the common Ferrous Metal used in construction and industries.

Following are a few types of pig iron distinguished on the basis of their properties.

ferrous metalsGrey Pig Iron:>

It is also called foundry pig. It is soft in character and rich in carbon. It is produced when the raw material is burnt at a very high temperature.

White Pig Iron:>

It is also called forge pig iron, as it is hard and brittle and can be converted only by using pressure. This type contains sulphur as the main impurity and hence is considered inferior in grade.

Bessemer Pig Iron:>

It is specially used in the manufacture of steel in the Bessemer process, because of its freedom from sulphur and phosphorous.

(2). Cast Iron:

It consists of remelted pig iron -containing carbon 2-4 percent- and a small proportion of manganese, silicon and sulphur.

The remelting process is done in a special furnace called Cupola.

A Cupola is in essence to a small sized blast furnace. It is 5 meter in height, about 1 meter in diameter and cylindrical in shape. The cylinder has an inner lining of Refractory Bricks which is provided with Tuyers near the bottom for injecting the supply of air blast.

Following are the common types of cast iron used in engineering materials.

ferrous-metalGrey Cast Iron:>

In this type, carbon is present in the flaky, graphite form. It has a typically greyish colour -which is due to graphite-. The usual composition of grey cast iron is:

  • Iron – 92 percent.
  • Carbon – 3.5-4 percent (as graphite).
  • Carbon – 0.5 percent (combined).
  • Silicon – 2-3 percent.

It is soft and ductile. It is commonly used in castings, dies, moulds, machine frames and pipes etc.

White Cast Iron:>

It is that type in which carbon is present in the combined form as iron carbide (FeC), not as a graphite. It has a shining white colour and a bright metallic white luster. It is very strong, hard and resistant to Wear and Tear. And quite Brittle as well.

It’s usual composition is as follows:

  • Iron – 94 percent.
  • Carbon – 2.5-3.0 percent (as iron carbide -FeC-).
  • Silicon -0.5-1.0 percent.

Malleable Cast Iron:>

It is actually “white cast iron” in which property of malleability has been developed by the process of heat treatment. The white cast iron is subjected to a process of annealing i.e heating in an annealing oven at a temperature of 875 Centigrades for 24-72 hours.

After that, it is cooled gradually to room temperature. It is tough, ductile and strong. It possesses useful properties of both cast iron and mild steels.

ferrous alloysIt’s common application is as follows:

  • It is used in Automobile industries for making rear-axle housing, steering-gear housing, hubs and pedals etc.
  • It is used in Railway equipment of a great variety.
  • It is used in Agricultural machinery making and carpentry tools.

Alloy Cast Iron:>

This group includes those types of cast iron in which one or more alloying elements have been incorporated with a view of increasing the utility of the metal.

The usual alloying elements are Nickel and Chromium. Nickel is added to effect an increase in the hardness and resistance to wear. Chromium makes the cast iron extremely tough, strong and ductile.

Ductile, Inoculated, Controlled and Chilled cast irons are some other varieties of cast iron, which is specially prepared for some specific applications.

ferrous-metal-propertiesProperties of Cast Iron:

No generalisation of cast iron is possible. This is because the ultimate properties of cast iron depend on:

  • It’s composition.
  • The rate of cooling.
  • The nature of heat treatment.

Following is a general account of the properties that depend on composition.


The amount and nature of carbon present in the cast iron greatly affect its properties. Thus,

  • When most of the carbon is present as graphite (free carbon) –  Then it will be soft and weak, e.g grey cast iron. But when the carbon is present as Cementite (fixed as Fe carbide), then the metal will be hard and strong.

Thus, Cast Iron can be both hard, strong, soft and weak.

  • The tensile strength decreases with an increase in the graphite content.
Alloying Elements:

the most important elements often added to cast iron and their effects are following:

  • Nickel: It may be added in amounts varying between 0.5-3 percent. The most common types of alloyed nickel-iron are: Nickel, Chilled and High Nickel Cast Iron.
  • Chromium: It is also added in small proportion. The Addition of chromium increases hardness and tensile strength. Generally, chromium and nickel are added together.
  • Molybdenum: It is specially added to increase hardness.
Heat Treatment:

This type of treatment changes the properties of cast iron to a great extent. This type of treatment effects the nature of carbon present in the metal. The combined carbon of cast iron gets converted to free particles of carbon.


The influence of certain common impurities like phosphorous, sulphur, silicon and manganese also affect the quality of iron.

(3). Wrought Iron:

It is the purest form of Iron, containing all impurities below a limit of 0.5 percent. And carbon is included in these impurities, its proportion being generally less than 0.12 percent. Besides, wrought iron always contains a small proportion of slag in silicate component.

The source material for the manufacture of wrought iron is PIG IRON. There are two processes for the manufacture of wrought iron:

ferrous-metals-listProperties and Uses of Wrought Iron:

Its most important properties are mentioned below.

Strength: It has a tensile strength varying between 2500 to 4000 kg/cm2. The strength will be greater in the longitudinal direction.

The ultimate compressive strength ranges between 1500-2000 kg/cm2.

Physical: Wrought Iron is bluish in colour, has a silky lustre and fibrous structure. It is malleable, ductile, tough and resistant to corrosion.

Density: The metal has a density of 7.8 gm/cm3, and a melting point of 1500 centigrade.

Wrought iron shows good resistance to fatigue and sudden shock. More ever it can be welded with ease.

Because of the above set of properties, wrought iron is extensively used as a material for making plates, sheets, pipes, tubes etc. It is also used in buildings, railways, and marine industries.

(4). Steel:

Steel is essentially a variety of iron containing 0.1 to 1.5 percent carbon in the form of cementite iron carbide – Fe3C – ). Besides carbon, many other metals may also be present in addition to iron, giving rise to great varieties of steel.

If the percentage of carbon exceeds 1.5 percent, the material will become more like cast iron because the carbon will then tend to occur as graphite ( free carbon ).

On the other hand, with the decrease in the carbon content (lower than 0.1%), the material would resemble more to wrought iron or pure iron.

The best thing about steel is that it has both properties of Cast and Wrought Iron – Compressive Strength of cast iron and Tensile Strength of wrought iron.

Due to these properties, Steel is used as structural material in all types of situations.

Steel is a versatile material of modern age. Its properties can be varied over a wide range by varying its composition and by subjecting it to various mechanical and heat treatment processes.

steel alloysClassification of Steels:

Steels can be classified in many ways such as on the basis of the methods used in their manufacture, on the carbon content, or according to their use. It can also be classified on the basis of steel casting.

It is, however, the classification on the basis of their chemical composition is commonly adopted. Following are the major groups of steels.

Plain Carbon Steels:

This is the first major group of steels. Carbon is the only controlling component in them besides iron. They are further subdivided into 3 subcategories.

  • Low Carbon Steels (C=0.05-0.25%)
  • Medium Carbon Steels (C=0.25-0.50%)
  • High Carbon Steels (C=0.50-1.50%)

Alloy Steels:

These are steels made with the addition of a definite proportion of a selected element or elements in addition to carbon at the manufacturing stage. Benefits of alloying are as follow:

  • The tensile strength of the steel may be increased without affecting its workability.
  • The resistance against very high temperature, abrasion and corrosion may be improved considerably.
  • The electrical, magnetic and thermal properties may be modified in the desired direction.

They can be sub-divided into 2 types on the basis of the proportion of alloying elements, which are following:

  • Low Alloy Steels.
  • High Alloy Steels.

So, finally, Ferrous Metals List comes to an end. So, now let’s move on to the Non Ferrous Metals.

Non Ferrous Metals:

As we know that many Ferrous Metals like steel and iron is used commonly in buildings and engineering industries. But many non ferrous metals and alloys have also been used to great advantage in both buildings and industries.

In fact, in some cases, they form far better materials than iron and steel and have replaced them to a great extent.

However, the non-ferrous metals are comparatively costlier and are selected for use only when they satisfy certain specific requirements and possess some definite properties.

Following are the special advantages of non-ferrous metals over ferrous metals in some selected areas.

In Civil Engineering Construction, Aluminium and some of its alloys offer a very suitable alternative material to steel in some special engineering construction. Thus, wrought aluminium alloys are:

  • Economical;
  • Resistant to Corrosion;
  • Light in Weight;

Compared to steels, they have been used in i.e construction of bridges and roofs in situations where not much strength is required. In these situations, they have been found to save 50% of extra weight.

In Engineering Industries, Copper, zinc, nickel and chromium in their pure and alloyed forms have been used as materials in situations where:

  • High tensile strength is required at elevated temperatures.
  • High ductility and malleability are required.
  • High resistance to heat is required.
  • High electrical conductivity is required.

In the above fields and situations, mostly non ferrous metals are used.

Non Ferrous Metals List:

(1). Aluminium:

Aluminium is a very common component  (about 8 percent ) of the earth crust. the most common ore of aluminium is Bauxite (Al2O3. n H2O). As a metal, aluminium was first discovered in 1825.

non-ferrous-metalsAluminium Properties:

Following are some important properties of this metal.

  • It is a white metal and shows brilliant lustre when fresh.
  • It is very ductile and can be transformed into any shape by rolling, stamping, extruding, forging, drawing and spinning.
  • It can also be cast into any shape by any method of casting i.e die casting, chill casting and sand casting.
  • It has a tensile strength of about 900kg/cm2 in the annealed condition. It can be improved to 1600kg/cm2 by the hard-rolling method.
  • Aluminium is highly resistant to corrosion. When exposed to moist air, aluminium forms a thin film of oxide at the top, which is impervious to air/moisture, and thus saves the metal from further corrosion.Following are alloys of aluminium.

Aluminium Alloys:

Following are alloys of aluminium.

  • Wrought aluminium alloys.
  • Casting aluminium alloys.

(2). Copper:

Metallic copper and its various alloys have been used in engineering industries and for many other activities from 100 of years. This is due to some of the useful properties of copper. Some of the most important properties of copper are as under:

  • It is very malleable and ductile so that it can be converted into any desired shape.
  • It has excellent joining properties, i.e. it can be joined by almost all the common methods: welding, soldering, brazing and riveting.
  • It has a very high electrical conductivity.
  • It forms excellent alloys.
  • It has good resistance to corrosion.

non-ferrous-metals-listCopper Properties:

Following are some important properties of copper metal:

  • It has a reddish colour and a bright lustre.
  • It is highly malleable and ductile.
  • It has a melting point of 1083 centigrade and boiling point of 2595 centigrade.
  • The metal is quite resistant to corrosion.
  • Its specific gravity is 8.93.

Copper Alloys:

Following are alloys of copper:

  • Brasses.
  • Bronzes.

(3). Lead:

lead has been used for centuries in buildings and other engineering industries. Lead is extracted from three chief ore minerals.

  • Galena
  • Cerrusite
  • Angelsite

non-ferrous-metalLead Properties:

The metallic lead has following properties.

  • It has bluish grey colour.
  • It has typically brilliant lustre.
  • It has high density – 11.35 g/cm3.
  • It has a low melting point of 327 centigrade.
  • It has a high boiling point of 1744 centigrade.
  • It is very good to resistance to corrosion.

Lead Alloys:

In general, lead doesn’t form many alloys. Its alloying capacity is limited because of its low melting point. Following are more important alloys of lead.

  • Solder
  • Terne plate
  • Type metal
  • Bearing metal

(4). Zinc:

Zinc is another non ferrous metal. The chief ore mineral of zinc is a sulphide called sphalerite. Smithsonite, Zincite (ZnO) and Calamine  (ZnCO3) are other common zinc minerals. If you want to know more about zinc then Click Here.

non-ferrous-metal-listZinc Properties:

Following are some important properties of Zinc.

  • It is whitish in colour and has bright lustre.
  • It has a density of 7.14 g/mL.
  • Its melting point is 419 centigrade and boiling point is 907 centigrade.
  • It has a tensile strength of 700-1400 kg/cm2.
  • Commercial zinc  (spelter) is easily attacked by acids.
  • Zinc surface is covered by a dull basic zinc carbonate in moist air.

(5). Nickel:

 Nickel was first discovered in 1750. It is manufactured from its sulphide ore named pentlandite [NiFe(S)]. The ore is first concentrated by froth flotation process and then roasted and smelted like other non ferrous metals.

For more details click here.

non-ferrous-metals-propertiesNickel Properties:

Following are some important properties of nickel.

  • It is the strongest metal in all the non ferrous metals, having tensile strength ranges from 4200-8400 kg/cm2.
  • It is highly resistant to many types of corrosion. Thus it can withstand in water, moisture atmospheric gases etc.
  • Its modulus of elasticity, thermal and electrical conductivity is same as steel.
  • It is highly malleable and ductile.
  • Its density is 8.9 g/cm3.
  • Its melting point is 1455 centigrade.

(6). Magnesium:

Magnesium forms the lightest materials used in structural engineering. It has a set of properties that make it suitable as an engineering material. For more details about it check out this Article.

non-ferrous-alloysMagnesium Properties and uses:

Magnesium is very useful metal both as a pure metal and in alloys its main properties are as follows:

  • It is very light with a specific gravity of 1.74.
  • Its melting point is 650 centigrade, which is similar to that of aluminium.
  • It has a poor corrosion resistant.
  • It has quite high thermal conductivity and a high coefficient of thermal expansion.
  • It forms very useful alloys with some metals like aluminium, thorium, zinc, zirconium, and tin etc.

So, finally, our article on Ferrous metals and Non Ferrous Metals reach to an end.. If you have any questions or I missed something in this article then don’t forget to ask me.

And one thing more don’t forget to share it with your friends and family members.

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About the author

Inamullah Khan

I am a Civil Engineer, Web Developer and Designer. And the Owner of this Blog. I just love to share my knowledge with others. And I am also a big fan of a Great Hollywood Actor "Heath Ledger".

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