Alloying Elements

The properties of metals can be changed by adding alloying elements. With a few exceptions, these elements are metallic and have various effects on the base material.

A differentiation is made between the alloying elements, whether they form carbide, austenite or ferrite in the steel and what effect is to be achieved by the addition. The strength of the influence may also vary.


This becomes clear for instance with the alloying elements tungsten and silicon and their effect on steel:


  • Strong improvement in wear resistance
  • No influence on the elasticity


  • Strong decrease in wear resistance
  • Strong increase in elasticity

This example shows in an impressive way how complex the influence of alloying elements can be. The increase of one property can lead to the decrease of another property.

During steel production, elements are added to improve the properties of the steel for its later use. So there are wear-resistant, saltwater and acid-resistant steels and also steel grades that can withstand nuclear radiation. All depending on the different elements added to the alloy.

Adding the alloying elements creates only the precondition for the property change. Only further processing steps, such as heat treatment, lead to the desired changes in the steel structure and therefore to the desired result.

The most important alloying elements besides carbon are:

See also

Accompanying Elements

Steel does not only consist of iron and carbon. Other elements can influence the properties of steel.

Read more
Brinell hardness test

Performing the hardness test by means of a ball pressure test according to the Swedish engineer Johann August Brinell.

Read more
Carbide Formation

Carbides are formed in steel from carbon and some alloying elements. They increase the hardness and strength of the steel

Read more

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