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Aluminium vs Stainless Steel – Which one is Better?

Aluminium vs Stainless Steel – Which one is Better?

Whether it’s the construction sector or the industry of electric home appliances and kitchenwares, two names which we mostly encounter are aluminium and stainless steel. Both these metals house incredible properties and serve their best when being used in the right place. The key attributes of aluminium and stainless steel are, although, opposite, both these metals cost nearly the same which makes the selection process even more confusing.

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So, if you can’t make up your mind about which metal you should go with, go through our Aluminium vs Stainless Steel comparison and get your problem sorted out. Here, we have discussed the general properties of each metal, the elements which make one better than the other, and when you should prefer one metal over the other one. So, let’s start!

Aluminium vs Stainless Steel

Strength

Stainless steel is much stronger than aluminium and that’s why it’s more durable as well. However, this advantage comes with a cost as well which is additional weight. On the other hand, since aluminium is not as sturdy as stainless steel, it’s lighter in weight.

Generally, the strength of a metal is determined by its tensile strength. Tensile strength is the ability of a metal to resist pressure without breaking down. In other words, if you can bend a metal piece and it doesn’t break even under great amounts of pressure, it means it has huge tensile strength and vice versa.

The tensile strength of aluminium is only 400 MPa while that of stainless steel ranges from 515MPa-1300MPa, based on the components of the alloy. So, if strength is your topmost priority, you better choose stainless steel since no one can beat it.

Weight

As stated before, the weight of aluminium is much lighter than stainless steel. According to a rough estimate, a piece of aluminium weighs around ⅓ of a piece of stainless steel, of the same size and volume. That’s the main reason why aluminium is mostly used in the aircraft and automobile industry. Due to its heavier weight and strength, stainless steel is preferred to be used in the manufacturing of cookware, kitchenware, cutlery, and bridges.

Malleability

In simple words, we can define malleability as softness. So, the higher the malleability of metal, the more easily it could be shaped, bent, cut, pressed, and manipulated. Since stainless steel is a sturdier and stronger metal, its malleability ratio is much lower than that of aluminium.

In other words, aluminium is much easier to shape, cut, and manipulate than stainless steel. However, some special stainless steel alloys (having high concentrations of nickel) have been made by scientists which are more malleable than traditional steel.

Rust resistance

In terms of rust resistance, both the metals are quite powerful but the one that is winning the race here is stainless steel. How? Let me explain! Most stainless alloys contain a significant amount of chromium which, reacting with the environmental oxygen, makes a layer of chromium oxides. This layer proves an anti-rust coating, saving the metal from getting corroded even under abrasive conditions.

Aluminium, although, makes an anti-rust coating of aluminium oxide, too, but it’s not strong enough to sustain in a highly acidic or basic solution or marine environment. Thus, if you’d expose the aluminium metal to such aggressive corrosion agents, the metal will corrode completely at a shockingly rapid rate.

The corrosion resistance capabilities of aluminium can be increased by the technique of electroplating but it’s an expensive approach that also comes with costly maintenance. So, all in all, when lifetime and strongest rust-resistant metal is required, stainless steel should be the very first option to consider.

Heat tolerance

Due to being a softer and weaker metal, the heat tolerance capacity of aluminium is also lower than that of stainless steel. Aluminium tends to meltdown at a temperature of about 400C whereas stainless steel needs an extremely high temperature of about 1400C to soften.

And since aluminium gets heated up quickly, it’s a better conductor of heat than stainless. That’s why aluminium cookware is preferred for a quick and efficient cooking experience, without burning way too much fuel. On the other hand, if you are a fan of cooking meals at higher temperatures, you better go with stainless steel cookware.

Electric conduction

Just as in the case of heat conduction, aluminium is better than stainless steel in electrical conduction as well. In some conductivity tests, it has been seen that stainless steel doesn’t conduct electricity at all and acts as an insulator.

On the other hand, aluminium can even outperform copper metal and since it’s lighter in weight and more affordable than copper, electricians are largely switching towards aluminium wires.

Magnetic properties

Magnetism is mostly induced in a material having ferrous or iron ions and since aluminium and all of its alloys do not contain even a single ferrous ion, it’s non-magnetic. On the other hand, the traditional stainless steel, due to being a ferrous alloy, is highly magnetic and can respond to magnets efficiently.

However, the degree of magnetism varies from one stainless alloy to another, based on the amount of iron and other constituents. You might be surprised but completely non-magnetic alloys of stainless steel also exist, including 904L and 304L.

Aluminium vs Stainless Steel – Which one is better?

By now, you’ve learned all the key attributes of aluminium and stainless steel which means based on the nature of the job, you can choose which metal would be suitable. Generally speaking, stainless steel is best to be used for the formation of cookware due to being super durable, more corrosion resistant, and easy to clean.

Due to the same reasons, stainless steel is highly preferred for the manufacturing of medical equipment. On the other hand, due to being a lightweight, more malleable, and better conductor of heat and electricity, aluminium is used extensively in aircraft, aerospace, electric appliances, telecommunications, and the automotive industry.

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