Exotic metals, in their essence, are alloys that are manufactured by experts through highly specialised and controlled processes.
In contrast to this, ‘normal’ metals are made through generic and well-known processes and are typically the standard grades of a particular metal. This includes steel, stainless steel, aluminium, copper and brass.
Exotic metals often have specific chemical compositions and products are usually ordered to be of specific geometric sizes. This is because most products that are made from exotic metals are needed for a specific purpose and therefore have to be bespoke ordered and created. They also need to adhere to comprehensive and detailed compliance standards.
Manufacturing exotic metals
Highly complex equipment and a significant knowledge of metallurgy is required in order to properly manufacture exotic metals.
Exotic metals are typically more costly to manufacture and process because extremely high temperatures are required in order to effectively heat and shape parts.
Machining exotic alloys can also be difficult. There is an extensive array of coating grades that are required to make the cutting tools effective and hardy enough to deal with the composition of an exotic metal.
This also means that post-machining processes can be tricky as well. Specifically, precipitation-hardening is required for some nickel super-alloys and this can be a real test for mills and manufacturers. This is why only specialist manufacturers are trusted to carry out this kind of work.
Special Piping Materials has a trusted network of mills and experienced manufacturers who have the correct knowledge on how to work with exotic metals and we only work with those with proven proficiency. In this way we can protect our customers and ensure that the end product is up to the job it is required for.
Benefits and applications of exotic metals
Exotic metals (often known because of their high alloy content) provide an array of enhanced performance properties. This includes:
- – Excellent strength
- – Excellent durability
- – Resistance to oxidation
- – Corrosion resistance
- – Resistance to deforming at high temperatures
- – Ability to withstand extreme pressure
These properties mean that products made from exotic metals are the best choice for working conditions that are particularly demanding like sub-sea drilling rigs. This includes sectors such as:
- – Automotive
- – Marine
- – Aerospace sectors
- – Oil and gas extraction
- – Thermal processing
- – Petrochemical processing
- – Power generation
Every type of metal does have its own specific benefits. A shrewd understanding of this is to say that the reliability of a product in a certain scenario very much depends on whether the correct material was selected for that particular application in the first place.
As an example, stainless steel is very tough, hardy and corrosion resistant, but unlike an exotic metal it cannot withstand extreme heat. This means that if it was chosen for an application that was particular hot (like a furnace) then it would be unlikely to be able to perform.
Understanding and analysing the environment that a system and its component parts are going to be working in is the first essential step in selecting the right material.
Another good example to look at is marine and subsea environments which can be a highly corrosive and acidic place to be. If a product is going to withstand these factors then it has to be made of a material that is resistant to hydrogen sulphide, saltwater and mineral acids. A nickel-cobalt alloy would fit very well into this scenario.
Commonly used exotic metals:
Nickel Alloy: Both Nickel and nickel alloys are non-ferrous metals that have high strength and can cope well in high temperatures. Nickel itself is part of the iron group and is hard, malleable, ductile resistant to corrosion and it provides an excellent base for developing specialised alloys from it.
Nickel’s versatility means it is used in a diverse range of applications, such as aircraft gas turbines, steam turbines in power plants and it is extensively used in the energy and nuclear power markets.
Duplex and Super Duplex: Super duplex and duplex stainless steels both consist of the three same metals, albeit different percentages. Duplex consists of 22% chromium, 5-6% nickel and 3% molybdenum. Super duplex, meanwhile, contains 25% chromium, 7% nickel and 4% molybdenum.
While both Duplex and Super Duplex are classed as exotic metals, having a higher level of chromium, nickel and molybdenum gives super duplex an enhanced resistance to corrosion. This means it can withstand corrosive environments such as those found in marine or petrochemical industries for a longer time than duplex and is higher in strength.
Products made from Duplex and Super Duplex can be found in the Petrochemical, Water desalinisation, Chemical processing, Marine and Oil & Gas production industries.
Titanium: Titanium is an interesting exotic metal and is often used in fighter jet and car racing applications. It is nearly as light as aluminium but is stronger than steel which is why it fits well in an environment where low weight, but good performance is required.
It has a tendency to deform when in close contact with other metals and therefore is rarely used in everyday scenarios. It needs to be heated to around 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit when processed and then kept in airtight environments.
Molybdenum: Molybdenum, although less well-known than other metals, has a reputation for strength and its ability for electrical conductivity. This means it can be regularly found in lighting, medical equipment, thermal spray coatings, and military applications.
Specifically, 6% Moly is a super austenitic stainless steel which contains at least 6% molybdenum. It is regularly relied upon for its unique set of advantageous properties such as its super strength and ability to withstand extremely high temperatures. As such, you can find it widely used in heavy industries such as the chemical processing industry and oil & gas market.
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