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3 Interesting Differences Between Steel and Aluminum

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This article is brought to you by David Jacobs of Modern Tool Supply 

Steel and aluminum are two of the most common materials used in modern construction, but their similarities are far fewer than their differences. Aluminum, a low-density metal that's famous for its corrosion-resistant qualities, is typically used in the construction and aerospace industries due to its light weight. Steel, an alloy comprised of carbon and iron, is much heavier and is used in construction for its strength and durability, making it ideal for weapon making, ship building and automobile manufacture. Check out these three interesting differences between steel and aluminum.

Separate Origins

Although it is a chemical element, aluminum is rarely found in its pure form in nature. This is because it is highly reactive and tends to bond with other chemicals--lots of other chemicals. About 270 minerals in the soil and rock of Earth's crust contain some form of aluminum compound.

Steel, on the other hand, is not an element, but an alloy of iron and carbon (and a number of other chemicals that alter its properties slightly) created by humans, and thus found nowhere in nature. Steel is made by melting iron and adding to it carbon, manganese, phosphorous, silicon and other chemicals in order to increase its strength, remove iron's naturally occurring flaws. However, improving steel's strength can only be done by sacrificing ductility—natural iron is far more readily deformed under tensile stress, such as pulling it into a wire.

Different Uses

Thanks to its extreme strength and durability, steel is frequently used in the construction of anything from bridges to buildings. When you add alloys to steel you can increase its strength, which comes in handy for manufacturing materials which need to withstand heavy wear, like auto parts, appliances, suspension bridges and sky scrapers.

Aluminum is far less dense and thus more lightweight than steel, but it is still strong enough to bear a great deal of weight. It's also naturally resistant to corrosion, making it ideal for items and structures that will be exposed to the elements. Aluminum is used in the production of anything from shutters and ladders to doors and bars, and it can be found in use in nearly every industry.

Distinct Strengths

Both of aluminum and steel are quite strong, but not all strength is alike. Steel is thought to be the stronger of the two, largely thanks to the alloys that form it, because it is so durable under compressive force. However, aluminum is far more malleable and more ductile, meaning that it is more easily bent, shaped and molded than steel and can therefore be used in more versatile applications. While aluminum is more malleable, it is also less dense, making it lighter and less resistant to compressive force than steel.

Aluminum does not succumb to rust, while steel, particularly carbon steel, does, though stainless steel is an exception and does not corrode. Steel is hard and won't ding or crack, while aluminum may scratch or dent more easily. Steel won't warp under the effects of pressure or heat; stainless steel in particular can withstand extremely high temperatures. Aluminum can't withstand the high temperatures that steel can, but its strength lies in its versatility and light weight. According to the Wall Street Journal, aluminum—while slightly more expensive than steel—is 10 to 40% lighter, making it ideal within the auto making industry, for example, where manufacturers want to keep the weight of each car as low as possible.

Both steel and aluminum have their place in the world, each with its benefits and drawbacks. Each metal has applications for which it is better suited, but both are indispensable in manufacture and construction.

Advantages of cooking with Aluminum

Cooking with aluminum offers plenty of benefits. One such benefit of cooking with aluminum is that it heats and cools extremely quickly. This is beneficial to chefs who need to work fast. Another benefit of cooking with Aluminum is a better heat distributing which allows more evenly cooked food. Finally, Aluminum is light weight which is important which is a benefit when you are using and moving pots and pans all day.

Advantages of cooking with Stainless Steel

Unlike aluminum, stainless steel cookware holds heat well so it is a great choice for cooking when food has a long cook time. It also is stronger than aluminum so the pans will last forever as long as you take care of them. 

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