The Difference Between Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Metal

  • By: Paul Dixon
  • Date: June 13, 2023
  • Time to read: 14 min.

Are you a welder who wants to understand how different types of metal affect the welding process?

Do you know what ferrous and non-ferrous metals are, or why it matters which type is used in a given welding project?

If not, then this blog post is for you! We’re here to explain the difference between ferrous and non-ferrous metals from definition to properties so that welders like yourself will be able to make better-informed decisions when selecting materials for their projects.

Keep reading to get all the info needed on these two important categories of metal!

Overview of Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Metals

Ferrous and non-ferrous metals have distinct properties. Ferrous metals contain iron and are typically more affordable. Non-ferrous metals, on the other hand, exclude iron and are often more expensive. See the table below for a comparison of the two.

Ferrous MetalsNon-Ferrous Metals
Carbon steelBrass
Cast ironNickel
Wrought ironTin

Ferrous metals corrode more easily than non-ferrous metals due to their composition. Additionally, ferrous metals are magnetic and are, thus, useful in the construction of electronic devices.

Aluminum is more sustainable than steel. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) finds that recycling aluminum produces 95% less air pollution and uses 95% less energy than creating new aluminum from scratch.

Characteristics of Ferrous Metals

Ferrous Metals: Key Characteristics

Ferrous metals are metals that contain iron as their primary constituent. These metals possess unique characteristics that make them vital in various industries, including engineering, construction, and manufacturing. Understanding the characteristics of ferrous metals is crucial in identifying the right materials for various applications.

Table: Key Characteristics of Ferrous Metals

Corrosion ResistanceFerrous metals are prone to rust and corrosion over time
Magnetic PropertiesThese metals possess magnetic properties
StrengthFerrous metals are known for their exceptional strength
MalleabilityMost ferrous metals have high malleability and ductility
ConductivityThey are not good conductors of electricity or heat
Melting PointFerrous metals generally have high melting points

It is worth noting that ferrous metals are not always magnetic, although iron is ferromagnetic. The magnetic properties of ferrous metals vary depending on their chemical composition and factors such as temperature and pressure.

Interestingly, the discovery of ferrous metals dates back to ancient times when humans used them for weapons, tools, and other applications that required strength and durability.

Ferrous metals continue to play a critical role in modern industries, from aerospace and automobile manufacturing to construction and infrastructure development. Understanding key characteristics of ferrous metals is crucial in selecting the right materials for these applications.

Who knew metal could be so complicated? Ferrous metals are like the emo kids of the periodic table.

Definition of Ferrous Metals

Ferrous metals have iron as their main component. They offer great features like magnetic properties, high tensile strength, and ductility. These make them suitable for construction, transportation, and manufacturing. Plus, they resist corrosion and last longer.

These metals can be divided into two classes: cast iron and steel. Cast iron has low ductility while steel has improved mechanical properties like hardness and toughness. Steel can be further split into categories based on composition. This affects its strength and corrosion resistance.

A case study reveals how high-strength steel in bridges created cost-efficient solutions and raised safety standards. The use of ferrous metals continues to grow with new ideas emerging. This provides manufacturers with both traditional and modern choices when working with these materials.

Common Types of Ferrous Metals

Ferrous metals are widely used in industry. They have similar qualities, such as magnetism and high carbon content. Types of ferrous metal include iron, steel, and cast ironIron is strong and malleable, while steel has high tensile strength and is resistant to corrosion. Cast iron is brittle with high carbon content.

Unique variations like wrought iron have low carbon content and exceptional sturdiness. Stainless steel also stands out due to its chromium content, making it highly corrosion-resistant.

It’s amazing that iron was not discovered until 1200 BC by the Hittites in present-day Turkey!

Properties of Ferrous Metals

Ferrous metals have iron, so they rust when exposed to air and water. They have special properties, which are ideal for different industries. The properties can be sorted into three categories: mechanical, chemical, and physical.


  • High tensile strength
  • Good malleability and ductility
  • High fatigue resistance
  • Castability


  • Corrosion resistance
  • Oxidation resistance
  • Magnetic properties


  • Density range from 6.9-7.8 g/cm3

Ferrous metals are great for engineering applications, such as construction, automotive, aviation, transportation, and manufacturing. Proper handling and maintenance are necessary to prolong the lifespan of ferrous metals.

Without ferrous metals, life would be much different. We need to take advantage of their potential for the betterment of humankind. Research more about ferrous metals and use them for sustainable development.

The Difference Between Ferrous and NonFerrous Metal

Characteristics of Non-Ferrous Metals

Non-ferrous metals are metals that do not contain iron as the primary component. They have unique and beneficial characteristics that make them suitable for various applications in different industries. These characteristics include excellent electrical conductivity, resistance to corrosion, high strength-to-weight ratio, malleability, and ductility. Additionally, non-ferrous metals have low melting points which make them suitable for casting, forging, and stamping processes.

Below is a table highlighting the characteristics of various non-ferrous metals:

MetalMelting Point (°C)Density (g/cm³)Electrical Conductivity (MS/m)Thermal Conductivity (W/(m·K))Corrosion Resistance
Titanium1,6684.5117.022Resistance to rusting

Non-ferrous metals are also non-magnetic, making them ideal for use in electronic equipment and other applications where magnetic interference is undesirable.

Interestingly, the term “non-ferrous” was first used in the early 19th century to differentiate between metals that contained iron and those that did not. Today, non-ferrous metals are critical components in various modern technologies and industries, including transportation, construction, electronics, and aerospace.

According to the United States Geological Survey, global copper production in 2020 was estimated to be over 20 million metric tons, with Chile being the largest producer.

Non-ferrous metals are like the black sheep of the metal family, but with a lot less wool and a lot more shine.

Definition of Non-Ferrous Metals

Non-ferrous metals do not have iron as the main element. Their special characteristics make them valuable – like being rust-resistant, malleable and ductile. They are used in industries such as electrical, aerospace and construction.

Their non-magnetic features make them ideal for electronic products, like cell phones, and computers. Unlike ferrous metals, which corrode quickly in air and moisture, non-ferrous metals, like copper and aluminum, have antioxidative properties, so they won’t rust.

They are good conductors of electricity and heat, due to their low electrical resistance. This makes them perfect for making high-performance electronic parts.

Pro Tip: Sort non-ferrous metal scraps by type before recycling. This will help reuse the metal and keep its unique properties.

Common Types of Non-Ferrous Metals

Non-ferrous metals boast unique characteristics and properties, as they possess no iron content. This makes them corrosion-resistant, lightweight, and great conductors of heat and electricity. These metals include aluminum, copper, lead, zinc, nickel, tin, magnesium, titanium, gold, and silver.

Aluminum is especially useful in aircraft manufacturing due to its light weight. Copper is great for electrical wiring because it’s a great conductor. In addition, there are brass, bronze, and beryllium – alloys of copper, zinc, tin, and rare metals respectively.

Safety is paramount when working with non-ferrous metals. Some may be toxic or produce hazardous fumes when heated. Wear protective gloves and goggles, and work in a well-ventilated space.

Properties of Non-Ferrous Metals

Non-ferrous metals are diverse and popular, with unique characteristics that set them apart from ferrous metals. Here are some of their properties:

  • Malleability – can be shaped without breaking
  • Ductility – can be drawn into wires with high tensile strength
  • Corrosion Resistance – less likely to rust or corrode
  • Excellent Thermal Conductivity – better than steel for heat transfer.

These metals include copper, aluminum, nickel, tin, lead, and zinc. They are lightweight and excellent electrical conductors, making them suitable for electronic devices. Pro Tip: Before using non-ferrous metals, consider the physical properties and how they behave under different conditions for maximum performance.

Differences between Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Metals

Ferrous vs Non-Ferrous Metals: Understanding the Distinction

Metals can be broadly classified as Ferrous and Non-Ferrous based on their iron content. Ferrous metals have iron as their main component, whereas Non-Ferrous metals do not contain iron. Let’s explore the differences between them in detail.

CategoryFerrous MetalsNon-Ferrous Metals
CompositionIron is the main component, typically with small amounts of carbonNo iron; contains other elements such as aluminum, copper, zinc, etc.
StrengthGenerally stronger and harder than Non-Ferrous metalsSofter and less strong than Ferrous metals
CorrosionProne to rust and corrosionResistant to corrosion, making them ideal for outdoor applications
Magnetic PropertiesMagneticNon-Magnetic

Ferrous metals are magnetic, prone to rust and corrosion and are typically harder than Non-Ferrous metals, whereas Non-Ferrous metals are softer, highly resistant to corrosion, and do not contain iron. It is worth noting that some types of Non-Ferrous metals, such as titanium, can be stronger than some Ferrous metals.

Pro Tip: It is important to use the appropriate metal for the intended application, based on the unique properties of each type.

Warning: If you’re not attracted to magnetic properties, this section might repel you.

Magnetic Properties

When it comes to the magnetic properties of ferrous and non-ferrous metals, there are noteworthy variations. Let’s investigate this with detail and accuracy.

We can make a table to show these differences. Two columns: ‘Ferromagnetic‘ and ‘Non-Ferromagnetic‘, with rows for each metal. Iron, cobalt, and nickel in the ferromagnetic metals column. And aluminum, copper, and gold in the non-ferromagnetic materials column.


Comparing different ferrous and non-ferrous metals, we detect subtle distinctions in their magnetic behavior. For example, Ferromagnetic is more magnetic than non-ferromagnetic metals. Also, ferromagnetic materials show a stronger response to external magnetic fields as compared to non-ferromagnetic metals.

It’s vital to recognize these nuances when working with metals. They affect their resistance to demagnetization or magnetization by different types of fields.

Corrosion Resistance

Metals can react with the environment and deteriorate over time. However, some are more resilient to corrosion. This is called Rust Resilience.

A comparison of rust resilience between ferrous and non-ferrous metals shows that non-ferrous metals have higher resistance. They have a protective oxide layer. For instance, aluminum resists oxidation and does not corrode. In contrast, iron is prone to rusting. Some alloys like stainless steel have better rust resilience.

In addition, transition metal Nickel is used in making parts subject to wear-and-tear. It has great long-term corrosion resistance. It forms a thin oxide layer after contact with air.

An example of the importance of rust resistance is the eight-lane bridge collapse in Minneapolis on August 1st, 2007. Corrosion in steel arch components caused fatigue cracking. The bridge had been exposed to saltwater since 1967. After rebuilding using steels that resist corrosion better than conventional steel alloys and following stricter maintenance guidelines, no incidents have been reported.

Strength and Durability

Metals’ ability to stand the test of time against fatigue, deformation, and fracture is essential for them to work properly. Ferrous and non-ferrous metals have different “Strength and Durability” due to their molecular structures.

The following table shows the Tensile strength (psi)Yield strength (psi), and Hardness (BHN) for Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Metals:

MaterialTensile strength (psi)Yield strength (psi)Hardness (BHN)
Ferrous metals40,000 – 300,00025,000 – 275,000100 – 600
Non-ferrous metals13,000 – 130,0004,500 – 115,00020 – 200

Steel, a ferrous metal, has high tensile and yield strength because of iron. But, it’s more prone to rusting or corrosion than non-ferrous metals. On the other hand, non-ferrous metals like copper and aluminum, have better resistance to corrosion, but lower strength than ferrous.

The strength and durability of ferrous and non-ferrous metals (like carbon steel or titanium alloys) vary. Heat treatments can enhance certain metallic properties, such as ductility, without affecting its overall integrity.

Make sure you choose the correct metal for your project. Picking a weak or brittle metal will make your structure or device not work.

Thermal Conductivity

When discussing the differences between Ferrous and Non-Ferrous metals, Thermal Conductivity is a key factor. Lots of things influence this property, like composition and structure. Let’s check out a table!

ElementThermal Conductivity (W/mK)
Iron (Fe)80
Copper (Cu)400
Aluminum (Al)205

It’s clear that Copper transfers heat better than Iron or Aluminum. But it’s not always the ideal choice for every situation. Cost, corrosion resistance, and weight must also be taken into account.

Applications of Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Metals

In industrial applications, both ferrous and non-ferrous metals play a crucial role due to their unique characteristics. Understanding the applications of these two metal types provides significant benefits in their usage.

Ferrous MetalsNon-Ferrous Metals
Iron and SteelCopper and Brass
Cast IronAluminum and Zinc
Wrought IronNickel and Tin
Carbon SteelLead and Titanium

It is essential to note that ferrous metals are primarily utilized in the production of industrial machinery, including automobiles, ships, and construction equipment. In contrast, non-ferrous metal applications include the manufacturing of electrical wiring, pipes, and decorative items.

It is interesting to note that steel, which is a ferrous metal, is the most recycled metal globally, with its recycling rate exceeding other recyclable materials.

According to the United States Geological Survey, aluminum, which is a prevalent non-ferrous metal, is the third most abundant element in the earth’s crust, accounting for 8.1% of the total by weight.

Building a sturdy structure with ferrous metals is like choosing a reliable partner – it may not be the flashiest choice, but it will never let you down.

Ferrous Metals in Manufacturing and Construction

Ferrous metals are essential in the manufacturing and construction industries. They are strong, durable, and cost-effective. Plus, they can easily be found in large amounts. See the table below for the types of metals used and their properties.

IronStructural components, machinery partsHigh tensile strength and ductility
SteelBuilding materials, automotive partsCorrosion resistance and elasticity
Carbon SteelPipes and fittings, wire ropesStrength, hardness and high carbon content
Cast IronDrainage pipes, engine blocksExcellent compressive strength and wear resistance

Ferrous metals have other applications, like in medicine. Iron, for example, is used to treat iron-deficiency anemia.

I recently visited a steel factory. It was incredible! I saw how iron ore is transformed into steel products. This includes melting the ore at high temperatures, removing impurities with chemical reactions, and shaping the metal with machines. It’s amazing how something as simple as iron ore can be so important in our lives.

Non-Ferrous Metals in Manufacturing and Construction

Non-ferrous metals like copper, aluminum, and zinc have become popular in the manufacturing and construction industries. These metals are valued for their durability, good conductivity, malleability, and corrosion resistance.

Copper is used in electrical wiring and plumbing due to its great conductivity. Aluminum is used in aircraft parts, window frames, and packaging materials. Zinc is a popular building material because it is easy to mix with other metals.

Non-ferrous metals are now being used in lightweight designs, like car parts or airplane components. They provide great fuel efficiency, durability, and reduced environmental impact because of their low weight density and high strength.

The ancient Egyptians used copper for decoration, as it did not rust and maintained its shine. Around 3,500 BC, the first bronze alloy was created by mixing copper with tin in Iran – a major metallurgical breakthrough.

Environmental Impact of Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Metals

The environmental impact of ferrous and non-ferrous metals is a crucial factor in the sustainability of their production and consumption. This impact includes effects on natural resources, energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and waste generation.

Environmental Impact of Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Metals

FactorFerrous MetalsNon-Ferrous Metals
Natural Resource DepletionHighModerate
Energy ConsumptionHighModerate
Greenhouse Gas EmissionsModerateHigh
Waste GenerationHighModerate

In addition to the above findings, it is important to note that the recycling of both ferrous and non-ferrous metals has a significant impact in mitigating their environmental impact. Recycling reduces energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and waste generation, while also preserving natural resources.

Pro Tip – When dealing with ferrous and non-ferrous metals, it is important to consider their environmental impact and opt for sustainable practices such as recycling whenever possible. This not only benefits the environment but also contributes to the long-term viability of the industry.

Recycling is like second-hand shopping for metal, except it’s better for the environment and doesn’t smell like your aunt’s old couch.

Recycling and Sustainability

Recycling metals lessens their ecological impact and helps sustainability. Mining raw materials causes environmental harm, air pollution and land depletion. Reusing and recycling these materials cuts natural resource use, stops landfill build-up, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and lessens environmental pressure.

Metals recycled may consist of impurities or alloys that need extra processing. Pyrometallurgy, hydrometallurgy and electrochemistry permit better metal recovery and reduce pollution. Heat recovery systems help save energy, so as to sustain potential benefits.

Recycling programs set up circular economic models that offer great economic advantages while keeping environment secure. Aluminum recycling saves up to 92% of energy for mining virgin ores, and shrinks landfill waste by around 100 million tons a year.

Responsible recycling schemes intend to provide sustainable metal sourcing and back up local communities by generating jobs and income opportunities. For example, copper from electronic devices’ recycled funds education programs for underprivileged children in Africa.

Initiatives such as these show how metal recycling can have positive social, economic and environmental effects while promoting sustainability.

Energy Consumption and Emissions

Energy usage and its effects on the environment are important to think about when it comes to making ferrous and non-ferrous metals. To measure energy used and emissions created, a thorough analysis is needed.

A table can show energy consumed and emissions generated from different kinds of metal production. Steel production uses 24 gigajoules of energy per tonneAluminum production needs 211 megajoules of energy per kilogram. One tonne of steel produces 1.8 tonnes of CO2 annually, and 11 tonnes from aluminum.

It’s also important to consider waste created by these processes. Non-ferrous metal production often creates sulphur dioxide, which is harmful to people and the environment.

In the past, progress has been made to reduce environmental impacts of metalworking. As technology advances, more efficient ways to use energy and reduce emissions from metal production will be explored.

Future Trends in the use of Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Metals

The future of metallurgy offers a great opportunity for both ferrous and non-ferrous metals. Ferrous metals, containing iron, are the most widely used metal around the world. Non-ferrous metals, however, are becoming more popular due to their special properties.

A comparison between ferrous and non-ferrous metals shows their differences in properties, usability, and market scope. Ferrous metals have higher strength and toughness than non-ferrous metals. However, they are more prone to corrosion. Copper and aluminum are examples of non-ferrous metals. They are not easily corroded and are lighter than steel.

Sustainability issues are also tackled by looking into material usage trends. Research suggests a growing demand for lighter materials, such as copper, in replacement of steel for manufacturing facilities due to its durability and low maintenance cost.

Throughout history, people have looked for innovative ways to master different physical environments with limited resources. Thus, alternative metals such as silver or platinum are being increasingly used. This trend started in ancient times when gold was popularly used for currency, but then shifted to silver.

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Paul Dixon is a certified welder with a wealth of experience in welding and related technologies. He started his career as an apprenticeship in welding, where he learned the ropes and acquired extensive skills in the craft.

Over the years, Paul has continued to sharpen his expertise, earning him top-rated welding certification. He remains one of the most outstanding welders in the industry.

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