The Differences Between Alloys and Composites

On the surface, alloys and composites have at least one big thing in common. Alloy and composite materials are both made up of a mixture of at least two components. Alloys and composites are also similar in that they exhibit different properties than the properties associated with the materials that are used to make them.

However, if you look a little deeper, you will find that alloys and composites are actually very different from one another. Let’s take a closer look at what separates the two by analyzing the differences between alloys and composites.

What Is an Alloy?

An alloy is a mixture of at least two elements with one of those elements being a metal. Alloys can come in both solid and solution forms. Those alloys that only contain two elements are called binary alloys, while those that contain three elements are called ternary alloys. The amount of a particular element inside of an alloy is usually measured in mass with a percentage attached to it.

Alloys are created from different elements in order to improve the qualities typically associated with them. When you mix the two or more elements together, you get an alloy that capitalizes off the qualities of the elements. Because alloys always contain at least one metal component, they often have metallic properties. However, one big advantage of using alloys is that they don’t have the same properties as the metal elements in them. For example, you will find that alloys don’t have one set melting point. There are a wide range of melting points connected to allots, depending upon which elements are inside of them.

Examples of Alloys

There are many examples of alloys. One of the most common ones is steel. Steel is usually made up of a mixture of iron and carbon, which is why steel is significantly stronger than iron alone. Steel can also be manufactured in different ways. In some cases, only iron and carbon are used to make it, but there are other elements like tungsten, manganese, and chromium that can also be added. By altering the mixture you use when creating an alloy like steel, you can change its hardness and ductility in addition to its other properties.

Another good example of an alloy is brass. Brass is an alloy that consists of copper and zinc. While copper and zinc are both great elements in their own right, brass has proven to be more durable than copper and more beautiful than zinc. It’s why an alloy like it exists in the first place. Many companies have found that, by using alloys, they can manipulate the look and feel of many different elements effectively.

What Is a Composite?

A composite is, much like an alloy, a combination of at least two or more components. However, while an alloy always contains a metal in it, a composite does not have any metal included in its mixture. The components in a composite are also always chemically and physically different from one another. These materials are commonly called constituent materials.

There are two different types of constituent materials that make up a composite. They are known as matrix and reinforcement materials. The matrix material within a composite is typically used to support the reinforcement material in a composite. This results in a composite that is stronger than the original components would be on their own. However, despite the interaction between the two constituent materials, they stay separate within the finished mixture because of their chemical and physical differences.

Examples of Composites

Composites can contain materials that are either synthetic or naturally occurring. One example of a natural composite is wood. It contains a combination of cellulose fibers and lignin. Concrete is usually cited as an example of a composite as well. You can see the different elements contained within it since those elements don’t truly blend together to create a new material.

This illustrates one of the other big differences between alloys and composites. While the biggest difference between the two is obviously the lack of metal in composites, the composition of alloys and composites is also very different. Alloys can be either homogeneous or heterogeneous mixtures, while composites are always heterogeneous and will never form a homogenous mixture.

As evidenced, alloys and composites have some similarities, but for the most part, they are completely different. Eagles Alloys specializes in distributing alloys to companies in a range of different industries, including the chemical, industrial, and aeronautics industries. We also work with those in manufacturing and technology and have more than three decades of experience with creating alloys. If you would like to take advantage of our competitive pricing and learn more about the alloys we have in stock, contact us today.