Although there are several different definitions of strength, including hardness, yield strength, and compressive strength, this article focuses mainly on tensile strength, which is the force required to stretch an object or pull it apart.
The first three metals on the list are elements found in nature, while the last three are man-made mixtures of elements (alloys) crafted for applications requiring high strength. The strongest pure or natural metals can’t match the strength of alloys specifically designed for high strength, along with other useful properties such as heat resistance, durability, biocompatibility, and corrosion resistance.
Chromium metal rates highest on the Mohs hardness scale, but it is brittle, and must be mixed with other metals for greater tensile strength, for example, in stainless steel.
Tungsten has the highest tensile strength of any pure metal – up to 500,000 psi at room temperature. Even at very high temperatures over 1,500°C, it has the highest tensile strength. However, tungsten metal is brittle, making it less useable in its pure state.
Pure titanium has a higher tensile strength than standard steel, but it is less dense, giving it a very high strength-to-weight ratio. However, steel alloys are stronger than pure titanium.
Inconel is an alloy of nickel and chromium, with several other elements, such as molybdenum. Inconel comes in several different grades, and is known for high strength at high temperatures, as well as corrosion resistance.
Steel itself is an alloy of carbon and iron. Alloys of steel with additional elements added, such as carbon (tool) steel and stainless steel can be crafted that are much stronger than standard steel. Each alloy is specifically designed to optimize different properties for different applications. Tensile strength, corrosion resistance, hardness, impact resistance, yield strength, and other properties, depend on the alloying elements chosen and the processes used.
Scientists continue to develop and test new alloys with even greater properties. In recent years, several different university research groups have announced new types of magnesium alloys that exhibit exceptional strength, along with light weight and high corrosion resistance. These new materials are already being used in smartphone and laptop cases, electric batteries, and medical implants.
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