What is Non-Ferrous Metal?
We use a variety of non-ferrous metals in our daily lives. The recycling of these metals and alloys is quite common and has a large, positive impact on the environment.
The Difference Between “Non-Ferrous” and “Ferrous” Metals
The word, “ferrous” is latin. It means, “with iron.” Iron, and alloys containing iron, are considered ferrous. The most common ferrous metal used in our society is steel. By contrast, non-ferrous metal refers to any metal or alloy that does not contain iron. There are many common metals that fall into the non-ferrous category.
Non-Ferrous Metals and the History of Metalworking
Metalworking can be traced back to archaeological sites in Serbia from around 5000 BC, where items made from copper were found. Other discoveries in Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom date from the 3000 millennium BC. These ancient artifacts made from copper, silver and tin.
Around 3500 BC, people figured out how to combine copper and tin to make bronze.
The ability to extract iron (ferrous metal) in order to make it workable didn’t exist until thousands of years later; the earliest evidence found dates to 1200 BC.
What are Some Types of Non-Ferrous Metal?
Because the category of non-ferrous metal encompasses everything except iron and iron alloys, there are tons of different types of non-ferrous metals. They can be roughly broken down into 3 categories:
- Precious Metals – Think jewelry. Think watches. Think large sums of money. Metals such as gold, silver and platinum fall into this category. Precious metals are categorized as such because they are rare and they have high monetary value. The price of these metals can fluctuate due to mining technology or availability.
- Common Metals – These metals are commonly used and typically cost much less than precious or rare metals. They include: aluminum, copper, tin, brass, zinc, lead, nickel, titanium and many others.
- Rare Metals – These metals are more difficult to obtain and some are even more rare than the precious metals. You’ll find them in a variety of different products, including electronics. Some examples include mercury, tungsten, cadmium, lithium, beryllium and cobalt.
What Things are Made from Non-Ferrous Metal?
Items made from non-ferrous metal are so common that it’s difficult to even begin to list all the things made from it. Here are some of the most common:
- Soda cans are made from aluminum.
- Batteries found in electronics are made from lithium.
- Jewelry, watches and coins are made from gold and silver.
- Wiring and pipes are made from copper.
- X-ray equipment includes sheets of beryllium foil.
- Paint includes zinc as an ingredient to extend its life.
- Piston-engine crank bearings are made from lead.