Featuring the atomic number 30, zinc is a bluish-silver metal that’s somewhat brittle at room temperature. While most people recognize zinc as an essential mineral — it boots the immune system and regulates metabolism — it’s also used in the production of many alloys. Brass, for instance, is an alloy consisting primarily of copper and zinc. It generally contains about 60% to 90% copper, with the remainder being zinc. Zinc is also used in the production of stainless steel. In this post, we’re going to explore the unique benefits of zinc that make it an attractive ingredient for so many alloys.
When used in the production of an alloy, zinc protects it from corrosion. It’s not necessarily immune to corrosion. When exposed to oxygen and moisture for an extended period, zinc can corrode — just like all metals. With that said, zinc offers a superior level of protection against corrosion than most other metals. Research shows that zinc corrodes about 30 times more slowly than steel. Because it corrodes more slowly than steel, zinc can withstand harsh environments without degrading.
Low Melting Point
Zinc also has a low melting point, meaning it converts from a solid state to a liquid state at a relatively low temperature. Why does this matter? Well, solder alloys often consist of zinc, tin and lead. When soldering two or more surfaces together, a worker must melt the solder alloy, Thanks to zinc’s low melting point, this process requires minimal heat to perform.
Another reason zinc is used in so many alloys is because of galvanization Galvanization, of course, is a finishing process that involves the application of a protective layer — typically zinc — over an existing workpiece. It’s designed to protect workpieces from corrosion. There are several types of galvanization processes, the most common of which is the hot-tip method. Hot-tip galvanizing involves submerging a workpiece in a bath of molten zinc. Once coated, the workpiece is cooled, thereby hardening the zinc. The newly created zinc layer acts as a shield to protect the workpiece from oxygen and moisture, which could otherwise cause it to rust.
The main reason zinc is used in so many alloys is because it’s naturally resistant to corrosion. With the exception of aluminum, most metals are susceptible to corrosion. Adding zinc, however, can transform a metal into a corrosion-resistant alloy. Zinc also has a low melting point, making it ideal for soldering applications.