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What is metallurgy?

Metallurgy is part of materials science and engineering that involves the study of the physical and chemical behaviour of metals. This includes metallic elements, their compounds and their alloys.

What is metallurgy?

The study of metallurgy has been considered extremely useful for many decades and it combines both the science and technology of metals. This is because, in its most basic sense, metallurgy sees scientists examining the microstructure of a metal, and this microstructure establishes the mechanical properties of the metal and therefore determines how engineers are able to predict and exploit its behaviours.

Metallurgy has many different definitions and characterisations:

  •  – It is science of making metals and alloys in different forms/shapes and, crucially, with properties suitable for practical use.
  •  – It is the science and study of the behaviours and properties of metals and their extraction from their ores.
  •  – It is the science that deals with procedures used in extracting metals from their ores, purifying and alloying metals and creating useful objects from metals.
  •  – It is an applied science – it links the science of metals to the metals industries.

The history of metallurgy can be dated back many thousands of years, when humans first sought metal for its many beneficial properties. An example of this is when Egyptian weapons were made of certain metals which were highly prized for their strength at around 3000 BC. The first evidence of extractive metallurgy can also be dated back many thousands of years when basic forms of smelting were used to extract useful ores.

16th Century German scholar, Georg Agricola, is often called the ‘father of metallurgy’ due to the boo he published can ‘De Re Metallica’ that describes the processes of mining metal ores, and metal extraction.

In the modern era, metallurgists often work in interdisciplinary teams alongside material scientists and engineers.


Special Piping Materials and Metallurgy

As a leading global stockholder and supplier of piping and piping products in a variety of exotic materials, it is only natural that Special Piping Materials is well versed on the subject of metallurgy.

The high-quality products that we source, stock and supply are required to be highly reliable and to consistently perform in a variety of harsh and hostile conditions. Our clients therefore need to know what properties the different metals have and how they can be subsequently used in different settings.

Our team members in our offices around the world are able to work with clients to ensure that the stainless steel, super duplex, duplex, nickel alloy and 6% Moly products they need are suited for the condition into which they are going.

Special Piping Materials also has an extensive network of highly trustworthy testing houses that we work with around the globe. They are able to perform a wide range of destructive and non-destructive tests that will prove the integrity of the products that we supply.


The basics of metallurgy

As most budding students will learn, the applied science of metallurgy starts with learning about what metals are. This is the basics of metallurgy and the crucial foundation for any further knowledge.

So, without further ado:

  •  – Metals are inorganic substances which are composed of one or more metallic elements and may also contain some non-metallic elements, for example iron, aluminium and nickel.
  •  – A metal has a crystalline structure with the atoms arranged in an orderly manner. They generally have good electrical and thermal properties, are relatively ductile and strong at room temperature. They are important and useful because of their strength, stiffness and toughness.
  •  – Metals are usually subdivided into two categories – ferrous and non-ferrous. Ferrous metallurgy involves processes and alloys based that contain a high percentage of iron (steel and cast irons),while non-ferrous metallurgy involves processes and alloys based on other metals i.e. aluminium, copper, zinc, titanium and nickel.
  •  – A metal element is: A single pure substance that cannot be broken into anything simpler.
  •  – A metal compound is: A substance made of two or more elements chemically combined together
  •  – A metal alloy is: A special mixture of two or more elements mixed together.


Types of metallurgy processes

  •  – Extractive metallurgyis the practice of obtaining valuable metals from an ore and then refining the removed raw metals into a ‘pure’ form. To do this, the ore must be broken down physically, chemically, or electrolytically.
  •  – Pyrometallurgyis a particular type of extractive metallurgy that involves the thermal treatment of minerals and metallurgical ores. This is for the goal of causing physical or chemical transformation of the materials which means than valuable metals can be recovered. Roasting, smelting and converting are the most common pyrometallurgical processes. Pyrometallurgical processes of course require significant energy input to reach the desired high temperatures during the process. This energy is usually provided by combustion, exothermic reaction of the material, or electrical heat.
  •  – Hydrometallurgy involves the use of water-based liquids to obtain metals or compounds from their ores. These processes include leaching, precipitation of insoluble compounds and pressure reduction.


Metallurgy testing

Metallurgical testing is essential in ensuring that metals are fit for purpose. This is especially true in the energy industries such as Oil & Gas, LNG, Desalination and Nuclear because conditions can be so tough. Any product that is created to operate in one of these industries must be forged from a material that has the appropriate properties so it can perform as expected in a given application and be durable over sustained periods of time.

Metallurgical testing specifically identifies the condition and makeup of materials. Alongside mechanical testing and chemical analysis, it is in high demand by Special Piping Materials’ clients. It stereotypically uses microscopy equipment to determine vital details about the structure and properties of any given metal or alloy sample.

Types of metallurgical testing include:

  •  – Chemical analysis
  •  – Hardness testing
  •  – Tensile Testing
  •  – Fatigue Testing
  •  – Impact Testing
  •  – Microstructural analysis

These tests are used to examine the following core properties:

  •  – Material type
  •  – Material grade
  •  – Tensile strength
  •  – Hardness
  •  – Elasticity
  •  – Grain size
  •  – Surface contamination
  •  – Material defects

It is safe to say that the art of metallurgy will endure as long as metal is relied upon to consistently perform in harsh environments. Special Piping Materials anticipates that this need is unlikely to ever abate and therefore will continue to work closely with our clients to ensure that our products pass even the most rigorous of metallurgic testing.

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