Non-ferrous metals are used in countless manufacturing applications. You can find them in airplane fuselages as well automotive engines, fasteners, wiring kits, building roofs, pipes and more. Unlike ferrous metals, non-ferrous metals contain any meaningful amount of iron. They are characterized by the presence of little or no iron. And without any meaningful amount of iron, non-ferrous metals offer several benefits.
Non-ferrous metals are rustproof. They can still corrode, but they can’t rust. Rusting is the result of iron being exposed to oxygen. When iron is exposed to oxygen, it converts to a new compound known as rust oxide, which is simply rust. Rusting, however, is exclusive to iron. Only iron, as well as iron alloys, can rust. Since non-ferrous metals contain little or no iron, they are protected from this phenomenon.
The rustproof properties of non-ferrous metals make them an attractive choice for humid environments. Humidity is moisture vapor. While moisture vapor can cause ferrous metals to rust, it doesn’t have the same effects on non-ferrous metals. Non-ferrous metals can withstand humidity because they don’t contain any meaningful amount of iron and, therefore, can’t rust.
Another benefit of non-ferrous metals is conductivity. They are typically more conductive than ferrous metals. Copper, for example, is a non-ferrous metal that’s used in electrical wiring. Of all the metals on the planet — including ferrous and non-ferrous metals — copper exhibits the highest electrical conductivity. Electrical conductivity is a measurement of how easily electricity can flow through a material. Non-ferrous metals like copper are highly conductive, making them ideal for electrical wiring and other electrical applications.
In addition to higher conductivity, non-ferrous metals typically weigh less than their ferrous counterparts. All ferrous metals contain iron. The presence of iron is what distinguishes ferrous metals from non-ferrous metals. Because iron is a relatively heavy metal, ferrous metals are relatively heavy. Non-ferrous metals don’t contain any meaningful amount of iron, so they usually weigh less than ferrous metals. Aluminum, for instance, is lightweight. When compared to iron, steel and other ferrous metals, aluminum weighs less.
Non-ferrous metals are recyclable. They can be recycled through smelting. Smelting down non-ferrous metals will turn into a liquid. After allowing the liquid to cool, it’s reused for other applications. Most non-ferrous metals are completely recyclable. With that said, many ferrous metals are recyclable as well. For iron alloys, though, recycling can be a little more difficult.