A pure metal is one composed entirely of a single element. These metals are rarely used in structural applications and
are usually difficult to prepare because of problems in removing all traces of other elements.
Mechanical Properties Of Pure Metals.
Pure metals have relatively low resistance to deformation because there are few mechanisms to prevent the movement
of dislocations through the metal. Two conditions can add to the strength of pure metals. Yield strength, which is a
measure of the first detectable plastic deformation, can be increased very slightly by decreasing grain size. A grain is a
small volume of the metal with the same three dimensional repetitive pattern of atoms. Most engineering metals are
made up of a large number of grains fitted together along grain boundaries usually not visible to the unaided eye.
Difference in lattice orientation in adjoining grains provides increased resistance to dislocation movement. A second
strengthening mechanism for pure metals is cold working. Cold working multiplies the number of dislocations, and
interaction between dislocations on different lattice planes increases the resistance to further deformation.
Conductivity Of Pure Metals.
Conductivity of pure metals is very high. As the purity of the metal decreases, conductivity is reduced. The normal
flow of electrons is decreased by scattering and interaction with the impurities.
Most engineering metals are alloys. An alloy is formed by adding one or more metals or non-metals to a base metal to
form a metal of desired properties. Alloying elements are usually added during melting of a base metal and the
quantities added are specified over a percentage range. The alloying elements can be in one or more forms in the
solidified state depending on the amount added and the rate of cooling from the melting temperature. Some elements
may occupy lattice positions normally occupied by atoms of the base metal. The alloy thus formed is called a
substitutional solid solution. Very small atoms such as those of carbon, nitrogen and hydrogen take up positions
between the base metal atoms to form interstitial solid solutions. This action can actually change the lattice structure,
an example being the addition of carbon to iron to form a steel. Alloying elements can also form new lattice structures
which are continuous throughout the metal or distributed as small particles of various sizes throughout the metal. The
distribution of the alloying elements is dependent on the amount of alloying elements that are added in relation to the
amount that can be tolerated in the lattice of the base metal and their change in solubility with temperature.
Alloy Effects On Mechanical Properties.
All of the alloying element distributions increase the resistance of a metal to deformation. Increased strength results
from the interference of the alloying atoms of particles formed by the alloying atoms with the movement of dislocations
or by the generation of new dislocations. This distribution can often be modified by heat treatment.
Alloy Effects On Conductivity.
The conductivity of a metal is decreased as increasing amounts of alloying elements are added. Even small amounts of
foreign atoms can greatly reduce conductivity. Some alloying elements have a much greater effect on conductivity than
others. Generally, atoms that most severely differ in size and electron distribution from the base metal cause the
greatest decrease in conductivity. The lattice distortion caused by the alloying atoms and particles of different chemical
composition inhibits the flow of electrons through the lattice. Because of variations in chemical composition resulting
from the tolerances in alloy additions, a conductivity range rather than a specific conductivity value is obtained for each
The properties of metals can be altered by changing the number and distribution of dislocations, alloying atoms, and
particles of different composition. These changes can be accomplished through various types of heat treatment. The
three principal types of heat treatment are: (1) annealing, (2) solution heat treatment, and (3) precipitation heat
treatment or artificial aging.
In annealing, the metal is heated to a sufficiently high temperature to remove the effects of cold working by
redistribution of dislocations and, in some instances, by the formation of new stress-free grains (recrystallization).