Case grouped in the transition metal category in

Case Study: Metals

 

The definition of a metal
is a material that has the characteristics of being a tough, malleable material
that is found from the Earth’s Crust as part of the periodic table. Of the 118
elements in the periodic table, 91 of them are considered to be metals. Many
Astrophysicists define the word “metal” to be all the materials made from stars
apart from the two lightest elements which are Helium & Hydrogen. There are
many categories that define each metal, the main two categories of metals them
being ferrous metals and nonferrous metals. These categories are defined by
their contents of iron with ferrous metals containing iron and nonferrous
metals not containing iron. Other groups of metals that are less regarded but
still recognised are Base metals, Noble metals, Precious metals and Heavy
metals. Since this case study requires me to cover five metals, I will be
choosing one metal from each category.

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Nickel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My first metal for
investigation is the shiny base metal, nickel which goes by the atomic number
28 and grouped in the transition metal category in the periodic table. It is
described as being a hard and very ductile metal. Ductile means that the metal
can be cut and drawn into thin strands of metal for multiple uses.

 

Nickel is generally found
in the Earth’s inner core within a mixture of Iron due to the process and of
which are the end products of Supernova Nucleosynthesis. Pure Nickel can be
found on ultramafic rocks in the Earth’s crust, these rocks are the main component
to the Earth’s mantle. Nickel is an oxidising metal that does so at room
temperature. Oxidation reaction is the process in which some metal losses its
electrons. Nickel is also quite malleable in the sense that it can be morphed
into shape at a relatively low temperature compared to other metals. The
melting point of Nickel is 1,455°c which is very high, so much that due to this
and Nickels resistance to corrosion at high temperatures, it is widely used as
a form of plate to protect other metals from corrosion effects. These corrosion
effects happen when the material is being gradually destroyed by this natural
process, this is when rust is produced on the surface of the material. Nickel
is also one of 4 elements that is magnetic at room temperature but will not be
magnetic over 355°c, this is called its Curie temperature.

 

Nickel is mainly used as
an alloy with 68% of Nickel used to produce the alloy’s, which is a combined
material with other elements to create a material. Example of such alloy’s that
Nickel is an element within is Stainless Steel. Copper-Nickel alloys are a
common combination of alloys used as they were used most prominently in coins
e.g. the US five cent piece.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nickel
along with a few other metals have the characteristic of not oxidising under
intense heat. This makes the plating of the wires suitable with Nickel being
the plated material especially since todays wires are usually made with copper
which oxidises very easily under low temperature. The basic wire plating is manufactured
by wire drawing to produce the actual inner wire, this is done by feeding
undrawn wire through die and by so it will decrease the diameter of the wire
the longer the wire will become. It is done multiple times so the wire can
become thinner and thinner. The plating is then added to the die so when it
goes through its final feed the wire will grab the plating as it goes through.

 

Steel

 

 

 

Steel
is an alloy composed of mainly Iron (atomic number 26) and Carbon (atomic
number 6). Steel is well known to be a very industry standard metal used in
many fields of industry including the building, automobile, infrastructure,
ships and many more. It is one of the most widely available materials in terms
of cost and location as every continent, except Africa has at least 50 million
tonnes of steel manufactured in each continent. Its cost is also very cheap
which has made Steel at the forefront of human construction worldwide.

 

Its
discovery of modern hardened steel was made in the 1700s as a basic alloy that
was produced in a blast furnace in Europe. One replacement that lowered costs
dramatically was replacing the coal ingredient which was how the carbon was
added into the alloy. From then on manufacturers tend to use Coke as a cheaper more
economical alternative than Coal.

 

Steels
characteristics is mainly influenced by Iron acting as a base metal, this means
that Steel is fairy ductile as Iron is very ductile and malleable. Although
Steel does incorporate small parts of carbon which does acts as a harding agent
within the structure of Steel so it is made quite a bit less malleable than
Iron. The inclusion of Carbon into the foundation of steel helps control
qualities that makes Iron a drawback for an industry material, thus making the Steel
have an increase in hardness, tensile strength and yield strength.

 

Today
Steel is one of the most profitable and common man-made materials in the world
with 1.6 billion tonnes of steel produced annually. Before around the 1980’s
the USA was regarded as being the top producer of steel in the world but the
number of workers slowly fell from 500,000 workers to more recently in 2000,
there was only 224,000 US Steelworkers accounted for. This steady decline in
production of Steel for the US is mainly accounted for the monumental rise of
materials manufactured in China. Presently for every 3 tonnes of steel
produced, one tonne was produced in China which is a staggering figure when
Russia, Japan and the USA are followed as the top producers of steel.

 

Uses
of Steel range in a huge spectrum with nearly all infrastructure of buildings,
cars, trains, pylons, stadiums and ships are more than likely to have been
produced from steel. Due to its massive availability worldwide and its very
inexpensive prices, so many large-scale infrastructure projects rely on steel
as it is the most economically and structurally sound material used at present.
Even small components such as nails, bolts and screws are likely to be produced
by steel for its extreme strength. Beams used in buildings used to hold and
separate floors within a building or to support the underside of bridges will
use steel as its strength compared to other low-cost metals used is
incomparable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steel
does have its negatives too, as you can see from the image of the steel beams,
these have oxidised which is a common occurrence for steel as it contains Iron
within itself when exposed to the atmosphere. When the steel has a layer of
protection such as a protective wax or paint, it will keep the surface of the
Steel dry as water is the cause for occurrence like rust when it oxidizes.

 

Silver

 

My
next chosen metal is silver (atomic number 47) as it comes under one specific
branch that are called Noble metals, this name is given as they possess a very strong
resistance to oxidisation. Silver is mainly regarded as a soft white lustrous
precious metal that has the ability to conduct electricity very well. Along
with gold it is well known for being a precious metal but it is far collectable
than gold. As mentioned before, silver is a very soft, ductile and malleable
metal. Another well-known characteristic of silver is its lustre which can take
a very white shine when polished, this has been such a widely known fact that
the colour silver was named after the metal.

 

Silver
along with copper and gold were regarded as one of the seven metals of
antiquity. Prehistoric humans would use these types of metals as an early form
of currency instead as it was viewed as a beautiful substance with great
attraction which made it so valuable. Early uses for the metal was mainly
pressed into an alloy known as electrum which was a basic natural alloy between
gold and silver, this was around the kingdom of Lydia 600BC, other notable
examples of silver used for coins in currency are the Spanish dollar, the early
Indian Rupee and the Islamic dirham. As for today’s prices, silver is valued at
$554 USD per kilogram.

 

Along
with coinage being the main use of silver for most of recorded human history
was the application of Jewellery and other antique items considered valuable.
This was mainly due to its lustrous beauty in terms of its bright shine when
polished, this has continued to be the case at present. Due to pure silver
produced is very weak in strength, it makes it very difficult to produce
resilient jewellery and other antiques so it is usually alloyed with copper to
add strength to the material so that the item is long lasted. Silver also has
very useful applications within the field of medicine as silver is added to
wound dressings as they possess antibiotic qualities to fight infection on the
surface of wounds. These wound dressings usually contain silver sulfadiazine or
silver nanomaterials. Other medical operations that include the involvement of
silver are urinal catheters and endotracheal breathing tubes. Silver has these
antibiotic qualities as the silver ion is bioactive where it disrupts the
enzymes within the bacteria that distribute nutrients and synthesise cell
walls. This will in turn kill the bacteria cell.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Platinum

 

Similar
to Silver, platinum is a noble metal but also is regarded as a precious metal
which means that this type of material is rare in availability around the world
and has a significant price. Platinum shares similar traits with other precious
metals as it is mainly a ductile, soft and very malleable material. Platinum’s
ductility is specifically more than other precious metals but a material like
gold is far more malleable but they all share similar characteristics. Once
again, platinum is very good at resisting corrosion and oxidisation which is
another trait similar but platinum has potential to conduct electricity very
well.

 

Pure
platinum wasn’t discovered until 1735 where it was discovered by Antonio de
Ulloa while searching for gold in South American mines, he took his discovery back
to mainland Spain for further examination and concluded that this material was
platinum as it was unlike any silver or gold they’ve seen. It was white in
colour and characteristics slightly different of that of silver.

 

Along
with other precious metals, Platinum is obtained as a by-product for other
extractions of metal such as copper or nickel. Platinum production was only 218
tonnes in 2014, 98 tonnes was used for devices fitted into vehicles for
emissions control. 74.7 tonnes were used for jewellery and 20 tonnes for
chemical production.

 

Platinum’s
most common use is to act as a catalyst for chemical reactions. An example of
such use is Platinum Black which is a fine powdered material with very catalytic
characteristics used for proton exchange experiments etc. Other uses for
Platinum is jewellery or coins because as an investment it will rise in price
with time as so little Platinum is produced every year. Platinum jewellery and
coins are usually 90% alloy as the materials is extremely malleable which will
most likely damage through wear.

 

 

Iron

 

The
last category that I have chosen to study is heavy metals and the example that
I have chosen includes in one other group of base metals and serves as a key
component to other alloys, this is Iron. Iron is most abundant element on
Earth, across the universe it is also most abundant element on millions of
other rocky based planets like Earth. This is mainly due to the end of the
process of fusion as it is the last product to be made. This is then released
and scattered through space by mass stars.

 

Iron
has been used since pre-recorded history, it is a relatively soft metal but
when met with other elements such as carbon, this characteristic contradicts
itself to create steel. The difference in strength from steel is one thousand
times greater than that of pure Iron. Iron molecules also are present in
biology as they form complex structures with oxygen molecules to create things
like haemoglobin that is a protein that helps transport and distribute oxygen around
the blood stream.

 

As
said before, Iron can be magnetised and is also suitable for electricity and
heat conduction