Chemistry

Difference Between Alloy Steel and Carbon Steel

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Main Difference

The main difference between Alloy Steel and Carbon Steel is that Alloy steel is comprised of a high amount of other elements, whereas Carbon Steel is comprised of a trace amount of other elements.

Alloy Steel vs. Carbon Steel

In Alloy steel, the alloy is a basic constituent. In carbon steel, carbon is a fundamental constituent. Alloy steel is difficult to handle while working. Carbon steel is easy to handle while working. Alloy steel is much expensive due to the ratio of different alloy elements. Carbon steel is less expensive because it consists of only a trace amount of other elements. Alloy steel is mainly referred to as the alloy because it consists of a great number of different alloy elements. Carbon steel can also be referred to as steel because, in this steel, iron is also mixed with other elements.

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In alloy steel, something like chromium with a little amount of carbon and iron is added. In carbon steel amount to add in the steel may differ according to the different things. In the case of alloy steel, other elements are added to the mixture to increase its hardness and other properties. In the case of carbon, steel carbon is added to iron to increase its hardness. The element added to the alloy steel is basically depends on the use of steel. Carbon steel is also known as plain steel as it contains only carbon as a main constituent and negligible or lowest amount of other elements.

Alloy steel is commonly called alloy due to the addition of other elements to iron and carbon, these added elements as an alloy may be boron, manganese, silicon, chromium, nickel, etc. According to the carbon concentration, carbon steel is also referred by other names e.g., low carbon steel or cast iron.

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Comparison Chart

Alloy SteelCarbon Steel
A high percentage of other elements are present in alloy steel.A high percentage of carbon is present in carbon steel.
Corrosion
More resistantLow resistant
Ductility
HighLow
Melting Point
HighLow
Weldability
HighLow
Contains Only
Iron, carbon and alloy elementsCarbon and iron

What is Alloy Steel?

Alloy steel is also said as a metal alloy comprised of iron, carbon, and a remarkable amount of other alloy elements. The alloy element may be silicon, titanium, copper, etc. These elements are named as alloy elements because these are used to make an alloy. The alloy elements added to the steel to upgrade the properties of the steel. The alloy steel is categorized into two categorize. One is low alloy steel, and the other is high alloy steel. Low alloy steel consists of fewer amounts of alloy elements. However, high alloy steel consists of a large number of alloy elements.

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Alloy elements are added to the steel to make it more hard or strong or to improve its durability and resistance. The addition of 100 percent chromium as an alloying element along with the carbon and iron makes the steel more resistant to rust or corrosion. Sometimes alloy steel is also called stainless steel. This steel shows the property of resistance to corrosion; hence it is used to manufacture kitchen utensils. Alloy steel is mainly used in the production of pipes for energy applications and to make other appliances like pots, pans, toasters, etc.

Alloying elements that are added up to the metal exhibits different properties. For instance, during the process of steel making Al, Mn or Si is added to S and P and to dissolve oxygen. Nickel (Ni), Manganese (Mn), Silicon (Si), and Copper (Cu) is added up to increase the strength. Chromium (Cr), Tungsten (W), Molybdenum (Mo), and Vanadium (V) also increase the strength.

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What is Carbon Steel?

Alloy elements in carbon steel are present in trace amounts. The alloy elements may be sulfur, silicon, etc. Carbon steel is categorized into mainly two different categories; one is high carbon steel, and the other is low carbon steel. If the carbon is present in a high amount in carbon steel, it exhibits the different properties like less flexibility, low melting point, etc. If the carbon is present at about 0.05 percent to 0.25 percent, then the carbon steel is known as mild steel or low carbon steel.

Because of the low amount of carbon, the quantity of iron is high in this type of steel, which causes corrosion when intact with the moist environment. Carbon steel with a high amount of carbon contains about 0.6 percent to 1.0 percent of carbon compound and about 0.9 percent of alloy elements. High carbon content steel is very hard and strong and isn’t easy to work with. It is mainly used to make building material. This type of carbon steel is also used by knife makers. Such type of carbon steel is also used in making wires.

To cut the carbon steel mechanically first, you anneal it properly to make expensive and special tools and gadgets. If the carbon steel contains about 0.9 percent to 2.1 percent carbon, then it makes super hard carbon steel. The carbon steel with lower carbon content is more flexible metal. Mild carbon steel is cheap stuff. High carbon steel is difficult to wet. Low carbon steel is easy to weld, stronger steel, and shows good resistance.

Key Differences

  1. To alloy steel, alloy elements are added to give it hardness, whereas carbon steel carbon is added for hardness purposes.
  2. Alloy steel is troublesome to work with; on the other hand, carbon steel is trouble-free to work with.
  3. Alloy steel consists of a large number of other elements; conversely, carbon steel consists of fewer amounts of other elements aside from carbon and iron.
  4. The toughness of alloy steel is low; on the flip side, the toughness of carbon steel is high.
  5. Alloy steel is an expensive metal, while carbon steel is cheap or less expensive.
  6. Alloy steel is effectively resistant to corrosion, although carbon steel isn’t effective in corrosion resistance.
  7. Alloy steel has a high melting point as compared to carbon steel.
  8. Alloy steel exhibits high welding ability and high flexibility compared to carbon steel, which is less flexible.
  9. Alloy steel is mixed steel. However, carbon steel is pure steel.
  10. Alloy steel deals with other alloy elements; on the other side, carbon steel doesn’t deal with other alloy elements.

Conclusion

It is concluded that alloy steel consists of iron, carbon, and other elements, and carbon alloy consists of carbon and iron only.

Harlon Moss

Harlon currently works as a quality moderator and content writer for Difference Wiki. He graduated from the University of California in 2010 with a degree in Computer Science. Follow him on Twitter @HarlonMoss

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