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(ăl`oi, əloi`) [O. Fr.,=combine], substance with metallic properties that consists of a metal fused with one or more metals or nonmetals. Alloys may be a homogeneous solid solution, a heterogeneous mixture of tiny crystals, a true chemical compound, or a mixture of these. Alloys are used more extensively than pure metals because they can be engineered to have specific properties. For example, they may be poorer conductors of heat and electricity, harder, or more resistant to corrosion. Alloys of iron and carbon include cast iron and steels; brass and bronze are important alloys of copper; amalgams are alloys that contain mercury; and chromium is an important additive in stainless steel. Because pure gold and silver are soft, they are often alloyed with one another or with other metals. New alloys are being engineered for use in new technology, including materials for the space program. Metallic glasses and crystalline alloys have also been developed, and metal alloys are sometimes bonded with ceramics, graphites, and organic materials as composites.



any of the solid or liquid systems formed primarily by the fusion of two or more metals or by the fusion of metals with various nonmetals.

The term “alloy” was originally applied to materials with metallic properties. However, since the mid-20th century, in light of the rapid development of the physics and technology of semiconductors and semiconductor materials, the alloy concept has been broadened to include alloys of elemental semiconductors and semiconducting compounds. Alloys with even comparatively simple crystal structures, for example, the solid solutions Cu-Sn (bronze) and Fe-C (cast iron, steel), often possess better mechanical and physical properties than the component pure metals. Two major periods in the history of material culture—the Bronze Age and Iron Age—were named after the metals and alloys from which tools and weapons were fashioned.

The properties of alloys have long been known to depend not only on the composition but also on the heat treatment, for example, hardening, and mechanical treatment, for example, forging, to which the alloys are subjected. The transition from the search for alloys with practical importance by trial and error to the creation of industrial alloys on a scientific basis was made only in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was then that, under the influence of the rapidly growing needs of technology and the concepts of physical chemistry, the theory was developed on the relationship between the properties of metals and the properties of alloys comprising these metals. Study of the effect on alloys of mechanical, thermal, and chemical treatment was also initiated at this time. Phase diagrams and composition-properties diagrams were constructed for various combinations of metallic systems, both binary and multicomponent. The nature of the interaction of the components of a system revealed by the phase diagram (formation of solid solutions, chemical compounds, mechanical mixtures; existence of phase transitions in the solid state) permitted a prediction of the type of composition-hardness diagram and composition-electrical conductivity diagram and an understanding of the alloy’s macrostructure.

In the second half of the 20th century, scientists in the USSR and other countries have paid increasing attention to the problem of predicting the nature of the interaction between elements and the properties of their alloys. In this effort, use has been made of the regularities revealed by the periodic system of elements and the advances made in solid-state physics, computer technology, and the theory of chemical bonding. The development of the theory of alloys has created possibilities for industrial expansion, as well as for new branches of technology. Modern industrial alloys constitute the major part of structural materials. Since iron is the least expensive and most available metal, iron-base alloys (steel, cast iron, ferroalloys) constitute 95 percent of world metal production. Elements of Mendeleev’s periodic system that until recently were of purely scientific interest are increasingly being used as alloying elements in the quest for new alloys with wider ranges of properties and uses.

The large number of possible alloys requires a system of classification, and both theoretical and practical approaches are available. With the theoretical approach, which relies upon chemical thermodynamics (and the phase rule), alloys are classified according to the number of components (binary alloys, ternary alloys) and number of phases. The latter category includes homogeneous alloys (solid solutions or intermetallic compounds), which consist of a single phase, and heterogeneous alloys, consisting of two or more phases. The phases may be pure components, solid solutions, phases with the structure of α-, β-, γ-, and e-brass and β-tungsten, phases of the Cu5Ca, NiAs, and CaF2 type, sigma phases, Laves phases (named for the German scientist F. Laves), and interstitial phases. Alloys with very fine heterogeneity are especially valuable and may be considered to lie on the border between solid solutions and heterogeneous alloys.

The practical approach to alloy classification is governed by factors pertaining to the production and use of the alloys. Here, the first consideration is the metal itself, and alloys are classified according to either the base metal (alloys of ferrous and nonfer-rous metals, aluminum alloys, iron alloys, nickel alloys) or the alloying metal, that is, the metal added in small quantities that imparts especially valuable properties to the alloyed components (beryllium bronze, vanadium steel, tungsten steel). A second consideration in practical classification pertains to use (in structures, instruments) and properties. Alloys can be classified by their properties as antifriction, heat-resistant, refractory, wear-resistant, light, superlight, low-melting, and chemically stable. A separate category can be reserved for alloys with special physical properties—thermal, magnetic, or electrical. A third consideration in practical classification is the technology used in manufacturing alloy items. Here, alloys are classified as cast alloys (pouring liquid alloys into molds), as deformed alloys (worked by forging, rolling, drawing, pressing, and stamping in the hot or cold state), or as alloys produced by the methods of powder metallurgy.

Alloys produced in the USSR are marked to indicate the qualitative composition. In addition, many alloys have names related to, for example, their composition (nichrome) or special properties (Invar, constantan). Alloys are also named for their inventors (Wood’s alloy, melchior, Monel Metal) or for firms (Armco iron).

The properties of most alloys depend on both composition and structure. Structure in turn depends on the conditions of crystallization and cooling and on thermal and mechanical treatment. The structure of alloys changes upon heating and cooling, and this change affects the mechanical, physical, and chemical properties, as well as the behavior, of alloys during treatment and use. The clarification, with the aid phase diagrams, of the possible phase transitions in alloys provides data for analyzing the most important types of heat treatment (hardening, tempering, annealing, aging). For example, before annealing, the original structure of carbon steels is usually a ferrite-carbide mixture; the major transition occurring upon heating is the transition from perlite to austenite at temperatures above 727°C (point A[). Hardening permits a retention of the austenite structure and in this case is described as hardening without allotropic transformation, where an increase in strength is obtained while retaining alloy ductility. A typical example of similar behavior for aluminum alloys is seen in Duralumin D16. Alloys in which hardening is accompanied by a loss of strength and a sharp increase in ductility relative to the annealed state are rarely encountered. A typical example of such an alloy is beryllium bronze Br.B2 or stainless Cr-Ni steel Khl8N9. For any metal or alloy in which a change in temperature brings an allotropic transformation of the major component, hardening with a nondiffusing allotropic transformation is possible upon rapid cooling. This type of hardening is called martempering. The martensitic transformation, which was discovered in the study of the hardening of carbon and alloy steels, was subsequently found to be one of the fundamental methods for rearrangement of the crystal lattice, a method characteristic for both pure metals and such varied classes of alloys as iron-base carbon-free alloys, alloys of nonferrous metals, and semiconducting compounds. Modern heat treatment of metals and alloys encompasses, in addition to heat treatment proper, thermomechanical treatment, chemical-mechanical treatment, and chemical heat treatment. During such industrial processes as casting, welding, and hot working with pressure, alloys may be subjected to separate types of additional thermal treatment with a consequent alteration in properties.

Various methods are used to establish and check the properties of alloys. These methods include destructive testing (for mechanical strength, ductility, heat resistance, corrosion resistance) and nondestructive testing (for hardness and electrical, optical, and magnetic properties). Alloy composition is determined by analytical chemical methods (qualitative and quantitative analysis) supplemented by spectral analysis and X-ray spectral analysis. Methods of rapid chemical analysis, used in the production of alloys, and semifinished and finished items made of alloys, are very efficient. Methods of physical metallurgy are used for the study of the specific structure of alloys and alloy defects. A distinction is made between macroscopic and microscopic defects in alloys.

The vast majority of industrial alloys exist in the fine-grained state in the form of polycrystals; the properties of these alloys are practically isotropic. The production of alloys in the form of single crystals, formerly a topic of purely scientific interest, has become increasingly important since the 1950’s because only single crystals can be used in several branches of modern technology.

The modern advances in alloy science are to a large extent related to improvements in classical methods and the development of new physical methods for the study of solids.


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Bochvar, A. A. Metallovedenie, 5th ed. Moscow, 1956.
Smiriagin, A. P. Promyshlennye tsvetnye metally i splavy, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1956.
Kurnakov, N. S. Izbr. trudy, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1960–61.
Kolachev, B. A., V. I. Livanov, and V. I. Elagin. Metallovedenie i termicheskaia obrabotka tsvetnykh metallov i splavov. Moscow, 1972.
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Elliot, R. P. Struktury dvoinykh splavov, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1970. (Translated from English.)
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A composite plastic produced by blending and melting together different polymers.
A metal product containing two or more elements as a solid solution, as an intermetallic compound, or as a mixture of metallic phases.


A metal product containing two or more elements (1) as a solid solution, (2) as an intermetallic compound, or (3) as a mixture of metallic phases. Alloys are frequently described on the basis of their technical applications. They may also be categorized and described on the basis of compositional groups.

Except for native copper and gold, the first metals of technological importance were alloys. Bronze, an alloy of copper and tin, is appreciably harder than copper. This quality made bronze so important an alloy that it left a permanent imprint on the civilization of several millennia ago now known as the Bronze Age. Today the tens of thousands of alloys involve almost every metallic element of the periodic table.

Alloys are used because they have specific properties or production characteristics that are more attractive than those of the pure, elemental metals. For example, some alloys possess high strength; others have low melting points; others are refractory with high melting temperatures; some are especially resistant to corrosion; and others have desirable magnetic, thermal, or electrical properties. These characteristics arise from both the internal and the electronic structure of the alloy. An alloy is usually harder than a pure metal and may have a much lower conductivity.

Bearing alloys are used for metals that encounter sliding contact under pressure with another surface; the steel of a rotating shaft is a common example. Most bearing alloys contain particles of a hard intermetallic compound that resist wear. These particles, however, are embedded in a matrix of softer material which adjusts to the hard particles so that the shaft is uniformly loaded over the total surface. The most familiar bearing alloy is babbitt. Bearings made by powder metallurgy techniques are widely used because they permit the combination of materials which are incompatible as liquids, for example, bronze and graphite, and also permit controlled porosity within the bearings so that they can be saturated with oil before being used, the so-called oilless bearings. See Antifriction bearing, Wear

Certain alloys resist corrosion because they are noble metals. Among these alloys are the precious-metal alloys. Other alloys resist corrosion because a protective film develops on the metal surface. This passive film is an oxide which separates the metal from the corrosive environment. Stainless steels and aluminum alloys exemplify metals with this type of protection. The bronzes, alloys of copper and tin, also may be considered to be corrosion-resisting. See Corrosion

Dental alloys contain precious metals. Amalgams are predominantly silver-mercury alloys, but they may contain minor amounts of tin, copper, and zinc for hardening purposes. Liquid mercury is added to a powder of a precursor alloy of the other metals. After being compacted, the mercury diffuses into the silver-base metal to give a completely solid alloy. Gold-base dental alloys are preferred over pure gold because gold is relatively soft. The most common dental gold alloy contains gold, silver, and copper. For higher strengths and hardnesses, palladium and platinum are added, and the copper and silver are increased so that the gold content drops. Vitallium and other corrosion-resistant alloys are used for bridgework and special applications.

Die-casting alloys have melting temperatures low enough so that in the liquid form they can be injected under pressure into steel dies. Such castings are used for automotive parts and for office and household appliances which have moderately complex shapes. Most die castings are made from zinc-base or aluminum-base alloys. Magnesium-base alloys also find some application when weight reduction is paramount. Low-melting alloys of lead and tin are not common because they lack the necessary strength for the above applications. See Metal casting

In certain alloy systems a liquid of a fixed composition freezes to form a mixture of two basically different solids or phases. An alloy that undergoes this type of solidification process is called a eutectic alloy. A homogeneous liquid of this composition on slow cooling freezes to form a mixture of particles of nearly pure copper embedded in a matrix (background) of nearly pure silver.

The advantageous mechanical properties inherent in composite materials have been known for many years. Attention is being given to eutectic alloys as they are basically natural composite materials. See Eutectics, Metal matrix composite

Fusible alloys generally have melting temperatures below that of tin (449°F or 232°C), and in some cases as low as 122°F (50°C). Using eutectic compositions of metals such as lead, cadmium, bismuth, tin, antimony, and indium achieves these low melting temperatures. These alloys are used for many purposes, for example, in fusible elements in automatic sprinklers, forming and stretching dies, filler for thin-walled tubing that is being bent, and anchoring dies, punches, and parts being machined.

High-temperature alloys have high strengths at high temperatures. In addition to having strength, these alloys must resist oxidation by fuel-air mixtures and by steam vapor. At temperatures up to about 1380°F (750°C), the austenitic stainless steels serve well. An additional 180°F (100°C) may be realized if the steels also contain 3% molybdenum. Both nickel-base and cobalt-base alloys, commonly categorized as superalloys, may serve useful functions up to 2000°F (1100°C). Nichrome, a nickel-base alloy containing chromium and iron, is a fairly simple superalloy. More sophisticated alloys invariably contain five, six, or more components; for example, an alloy called René-41 contains Cr, Al, Ti, Co, Mo, Fe, C, B, and Ni. Other alloys are equally complex. A group of materials called cermets, which are mixtures of metals and compounds such as oxides and carbides, have high strength at high temperatures, and although their ductility is low, they have been found to be usable. One of the better-known cermets consists of a mixture of titanium carbide and nickel, the nickel acting as a binder or cement for the carbide. See Cermet

Metals are bonded by three principal procedures: welding, brazing, and soldering. Welded joints melt the contact region of the adjacent metal; thus the filler material is chosen to approximate the composition of the parts being joined. Brazing and soldering alloys are chosen to provide filler metal with an appreciably lower melting point than that of the joined parts. Typically, brazing alloys melt above 750°F (400°C), whereas solders melt at lower temperatures. See Brazing, Soldering

Aluminum and magnesium, with densities of 2.7 and 1.75 g/cm3, respectively, are the bases for most of the light-metal alloys. Titanium (4.5 g/cm3) may also be regarded as a light-metal alloy if comparisons are made with metals such as steel and copper. Aluminum and magnesium must be hardened to receive extensive application. Age-hardening processes are used for this purpose.

Low-expansion alloys include Invar, the dimensions of which do not vary over the atmospheric temperature range, and Kovar, which is widely used because its expansion is low enough to match that of glass.

Soft and hard magnetic materials involve two distinct categories of alloys. The former consists of materials used for magnetic cores of transformers and motors, and must be magnetized and demagnetized easily. For alternating-current applications, silicon-ferrite is commonly used. This is an alloy of iron containing as much as 5% silicon. Permalloy and some comparable cobalt-base alloys are used in the communications industry. Ceramic ferrites, although not strictly alloys, are widely used in high-frequency applications because of their low electrical conductivity and negligible induced-energy losses in the magnetic field. Permanent or hard magnets may be made from steels which are mechanically hardened, either by deformation or by quenching. The Alnicos are also widely used for magnets. Since these alloys cannot be forged, they must be produced in the form of castings. The newest hard magnets are being produced from alloys of cobalt and the rare-earth type of metals.

In addition to their use in coins and jewelry, precious metals such as silver, gold, and the heavier platinum metals are used extensively in electrical devices in which contact resistances must remain low, in catalytic applications to aid chemical reactions, and in temperature-measuring devices such as resistance thermometers and thermocouples. The unit of alloy impurity is commonly expressed in karats, where each karat is a 1/24 part. The most common precious-metal alloy is sterling silver (92.5% Ag, with the remainder being unspecified, but usually copper). The copper is very beneficial in that it makes the alloy harder and stronger than pure silver.

Metallic implants demand extreme corrosion resistance because body fluids contain nearly 1% NaCl, along with minor amounts of other salts, with which the metal will be in contact for indefinitely long periods of time. Type 316 stainless steels resist pitting corrosion but are subject to crevice corrosion. Vitallium and other cobalt-base alloys have orthopedic applications. Titanium alloys gained wide usage in Europe during the early 1970s for pacemakers and for retaining devices in artificial heart valves. While excellent for corrosion resistance, this alloy is subject to mechanical wear; therefore, it is not satisfactory in hip-joint prostheses and applications with similar frictional contacts.

Shape memory alloys have a very interesting and desirable property. In a typical case, a metallic object of a given shape is cooled from a given temperature T1 to a lower temperature T2 where it is deformed so as to change its shape. Upon reheating from T2 to T1 the shape change accomplished at T2 is recovered so that the object returns to its original configuration. This thermoelastic property of the shape memory alloys is associated with the fact that they undergo a martensitic phase transformation (that is, a reversible change in crystal structure that does not involve diffusion) when they are cooled or heated between T1 and T2. Shape memory alloys are capable of being employed in a number of useful applications. One example is for thermostats; another is for couplings on hydraulic lines or electrical circuits.

Superconducting alloys, with zero resistivity, are of great interest in the design of certain fusion reactors which require very large magnetic fields to contain the plasma in a closed system. The advantage of the use of a material with a resistivity approaching zero is obvious. However, two significant problems are involved in the use of superconducting alloys in large electromagnetics: the critical temperature, and the fact that above a certain critical current density the superconducting materials tend to become normal conductors with a finite resistance. Serious materials problems still have to be solved before these materials can be used successfully.

Thermocouple alloys include Chromel and Alumel. These two alloys together form the widely used Chromel-Alumel thermocouple, which can measure temperatures up to 2200°F (1204°C). Another common thermocouple alloy, constantan, is used to form iron-constantan and copper-constantan couples, employed at lower temperatures. See Thermocouple

As discussed here, prosthetic alloys are alloys used in internal prostheses, that is, surgical implants such as artificial hips and knees. External prostheses are devices that are worn by patients outside the body; alloy selection criteria are different from those for internal prostheses. Alloy selection criteria for surgical implants can be stringent primarily because of biomechanical and chemical aspects of the service environment. The most widely used prosthetic alloys therefore include high-strength, corrosion-resistant ferrous, cobalt-based, or titanium-based alloys: for example, cold-worked stainless steel; cast Vitallium; a wrought alloy of cobalt, nickel, chromium, molybdenum, and titanium; titanium alloyed with aluminium and vanadium; and commercial-purity titanium.

An alloy of niobium and titanium (NbTi) has a great number of applications in superconductivity; it becomes superconducting at 9.5 K (critical superconducting temperature, Tc). This alloy is preferred because of its ductility and its ability to carry large amounts of current at high magnetic fields, represented by Jc(H) [where Jc is the critical current and H is a given magnetic field], and still retain its superconducting properties. Novel high-temperature superconducting materials may have revolutionary impact on superconductivity and its applications. These materials are ceramic, copper oxide-based materials that contain at least four and as many as six elements. Typical examples are yttrium-barium-copper-oxygen (Tc 93 K); bismuth-strontium-calcium-copper-oxygen (Tc 110 K); and thallium-barium-calcium-copper-oxygen (Tc 125 K). These materials become superconducting at such high temperatures that refrigeration is simpler, more dependable, and less expensive. See Ceramics


A composition of two or more metals fused together, usually to obtain a desired property.


a metallic material, such as steel, brass, or bronze, consisting of a mixture of two or more metals or of metallic elements with nonmetallic elements. Alloys often have physical properties markedly different from those of the pure metals


A language by Thanasis Mitsolides <> which combines functional programming, object-oriented programming and logic programming ideas, and is suitable for massively parallel systems.

Evaluating modes support serial or parallel execution, eager evaluation or lazy evaluation, nondeterminism or multiple solutions etc. ALLOY is simple as it only requires 29 primitives in all (half of which are for object oriented programming support).

It runs on SPARC.

["The Design and Implementation of ALLOY, a Parallel Higher Level Programming Language", Thanasis Mitsolides <>, PhD Thesis NYU 1990].


A mixture of two or more metals or a mixture of metal and some other substance in order to alter the end product to fit a particular requirement. For example, solder is an alloy of tin and lead.
References in periodicals archive ?
Racer RX offers an advanced cobalt-chromium alloy for superior radial strength compared to stainless steel stents, but also has thin struts for ease of deliverability.
MoM hip implants are made of a cobalt-chromium alloy and alleviate the discomfort that patients feel before the surgery.
The one-piece cobalt-chromium alloy cage lessens the risk of kinking even in tortuous anatomy that could restrict or block blood flow, reducing the need for additional procedures or costly peripheral stents.
Metal-on-metal hip implants are made of a cobalt-chromium alloy.