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The Melting Points of Metals

Metals are known for their ability to withstand extreme conditions – heavy loads, nonstop cycling, high impact, caustic environments, and even high temperatures. Furnaces, combustion engines, jet engines, ignition nozzles, high-speed machinery, and exhaust systems are consistently subjected to temperatures that can cause certain metal types to melt. When selecting a metal for a high-temperature application, several different temperature points need to be evaluated, and one of the most critical temperatures to know is the melting temperature of the metal.

What is the Melting Temperature of Metals?

A metal’s melting temperature, more scientifically known as the melting point, is the temperature at which a metal begins to transform from a solid phase into a liquid phase. At the melting temperature, the solid phase and liquid phase of a metal exist in equilibrium. Once this temperature is achieved, heat can be continuously added to the metal; however, this will not raise the overall temperature. Once the metal is completely in the liquid phase, additional heat will again continue to raise the temperature of the metal.

Why is the Metal Melting Temperature Important?

There are many important temperatures that a metal reaches as it is heated through either a metalworking process or as a result of the application, but the melting temperature of a metal is one of the most important.

One reason the melting temperature is so important is because of the component failure that can occur once a metal reaches its melting temperature. Metal failure may happen before the melting point, but when a metal reaches its melting temperature and begins to become a liquid, it will no longer serve its intended purpose. For instance, if a furnace component begins to melt, the furnace will no longer function if the component is important enough. If a jet engine fuel nozzle melts, the orifices will clog and may render the engine useless. It is important to note that other types of metal failure, such as creep-induced fractures, may occur well before the melting temperature is reached, and research needs to be done beforehand on the effect of the various temperatures to which a metal will be subjected.

Another reason why the melting temperature of a metal is so important is that metals are most formable when they are liquid. Metals are heated to their melting temperatures for many different manufacturing processes. Smelting, fusion welding, and casting all require metals to be liquids in order to be performed. When performing a manufacturing process where the metal is going to be melted, it is important to know the temperature at which that will happen so that the appropriate materials for the equipment being used can be selected. For instance, a welding gun must be able to withstand the ambient heat of an electrical arc and molten metal. Casting equipment such as dies must have a higher melting temperature than the metal being cast.

Why Do Different Metals Have Different Melting Points?

The melting points of different metals vary due to their atomic structures and bond strengths. Each metal has a unique atomic arrangement and electron configuration, influencing the strength of metallic bonds. Stronger bonds, found in metals with more delocalized electrons and closely packed atoms, require more energy to break, resulting in higher melting points. Factors like atomic size, electron delocalization, and lattice structure complexity contribute to this variance. Impurities and alloying can also affect a metal’s melting point.

What Metals Have High Melting Points?

Metals with high melting points are crucial in applications requiring exceptional heat resistance. Tungsten stands out with the highest melting point among all metals, ideal for extreme temperature conditions. Rhenium, osmium, and tantalum follow closely, offering similar resistance to heat, which is crucial in aerospace and electrical industries. Molybdenum has a notably high melting point, making it valuable in furnace construction and other high-temperature environments. These metals’ ability to withstand intense heat without melting or degrading is essential for their respective industrial uses.

What Metals Have Medium Melting Points?

Metals with medium melting points, such as iron, copper, and steel, are pivotal in various industries due to their balanced properties. Iron, a core component in the construction and heavy machinery industries, has a melting point that facilitates its forging and shaping. Copper’s melting point complements its high electrical conductivity, making it indispensable in electrical wiring and plumbing. Steel, an alloy primarily of iron, has a variable melting point depending on its composition, which is crucial for its versatility in the construction, automotive, and tool-making industries.

What Metals Have Low Melting Points?

Metals with low melting points include gallium, cesium, and mercury. Gallium, for instance, can melt in the palm of a hand. Mercury is unique as it is liquid at room temperature. These low melting point metals are used in various applications such as thermometers (mercury), low-melting alloys, and some electronic applications (gallium). The low melting points make these metals suitable for specialized applications where they need to liquefy and solidify at relatively low temperatures.

Can the Melting Point of a Metal Change Under Different Conditions?

The melting point of a metal is generally consistent under standard conditions. However, it can change under extreme pressure or when the metal is in different forms, such as powders or thin films. High pressure can significantly increase a metal’s melting point, while reduced dimensions (like in nanoparticles) may decrease it. Additionally, impurities and alloying elements can also alter the melting point. However, in typical everyday conditions, the melting point of a pure metal remains relatively constant.

A Comparison of the Melting Points of Metals from Metal Supermarkets

Each metal from Metal Supermarkets has unique properties influenced by its melting point, impacting its suitability for specific uses:

Aluminum Melting Point – Aluminum is known for its low melting point compared to other metals, making it easier to work with for various applications. Its melting point is a key factor in its widespread use in industries like aerospace and transportation.

Copper Melting Point – Copper’s melting point is crucial in electrical wiring and plumbing. This property and its excellent conductivity make copper a staple in many industrial and residential applications.

Brass Melting Point – Brass, an alloy of copper and zinc, has a melting point that varies depending on its composition. The melting point of brass influences its use in musical instruments, decorative items, and fittings.

Iron Melting Point – Iron has a higher melting point, contributing to its strength and durability. This property is vital for its use in construction, manufacturing, and various heavy industries.

Steel Melting Point – Steel, primarily an alloy of iron, has a melting point that varies based on its composition. The steel melting point plays a significant role in determining its application in construction, automotive, and various other sectors.

Knowing the melting points of different metals is crucial in determining their applications and working properties. Understanding these temperatures is key for professionals in various industries. If you’re seeking more information or need materials for your next project, Metal Supermarkets provides a comprehensive range of metals with detailed specifications. Shop online or visit your closest store to explore your metal options.

Melting Temperatures of Common Metals

These are the melting temperatures of common metal types:

  • Aluminum: 660°C (1220°F)
  • Brass: 930°C (1710°F)
  • Aluminum Bronze*: 1027-1038°C (1881-1900°F)
  • Chromium: 1860°C (3380°F)
  • Copper: 1084°C (1983°F)
  • Gold: 1063°C (1945°F)
  • Inconel*: 1390-1425°C (2540-2600°F)
  • Cast Iron: 1204°C (2200°F)
  • Lead: 328°C (622°F)
  • Molybdenum: 2620°C (4748°F)
  • Nickel: 1453°C (2647°F)
  • Platinum: 1770°C (3218°F)
  • Silver: 961°C (1762°F)
  • Carbon Steel*: 1425-1540°C (2597-2800°F)
  • Stainless Steel*: 1375 – 1530°C (2500-2785°F)
  • Titanium: 1670°C (3038°F)
  • Tungsten: 3400°C (6152°F)
  • Zinc: 420°C (787°F)

*Alloys have more than one element, therefore their melting temperature is a range that is dependent on the alloy composition.

Metal Supermarkets

Metal Supermarkets is the world’s largest small-quantity metal supplier with 125 brick-and-mortar stores across the US, Canada, and United Kingdom. We are metal experts and have been providing quality customer service and products since 1985.

At Metal Supermarkets, we supply a wide range of metals for a variety of applications. Our stock includes: mild steel, stainless steel, aluminum, tool steel, alloy steel, brass, bronze and copper.

We stock a wide range of shapes including: bars, tubes, sheets, plates and more. And we can cut metal to your exact specifications.

Visit one of our 120+ locations across North America today.

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