When we think about the strongest materials in existence, metals are the obvious answer. But what are the strongest metals?
How can we measure strength?
It’s important to note that with regards to metals, there are four types of strength:
- Compressive strength – how strongly a metal can resist compaction or ‘squeezing’
- Tensile strength – a metal’s ability to resist tension, ie being stretched
- Yield strength – how well a metal resists deformation, ie bending
- Impact strength – a metal’s capacity to resist sudden force or impact
Additionally, we can look at the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, which was invented by the mineralogist Friedrich Mohs and is based on the ability of one mineral to scratch another, on a scale of 1 to 10.
What are the strongest metals overall?
When considering these aspects of strength, steels and alloys are the clear winners. Some examples of these are carbon, maraging and stainless steels.
Carbon steels have a carbon content of up to 2.1% by weight. They have a yield strength of 260 megapascals (MPa), and a tensile strength of 580 MPa. They score about 6 on the Mohs scale, and are extremely impact-resistant.
Maraging steels contains between 15% and 25% nickel, as well as other elements such as cobalt, titanium, molybdenum, and aluminum. They have a low carbon content, and a yield strength of between 1400 and 2400 MPa.
Stainless steel contains a minimum of 11% chromium, and is often combined with nickel in order to reduce the risk of corrosion. It has a yield strength of up to 1,560 MPa, and a tensile strength of up to 1,600 MPa.
What are the strongest pure metals?
While steels and alloys can be considered the strongest metals in the world, the strongest ‘pure’ (non-alloyed) metals are tungsten, titanium and chromium.
Tungsten has the highest tensile strength of any natural metal, and is virtually impossible to bend. Due to this, it can shatter on impact if enough force is applied. We have quite a few tungsten rings.
Titanium has a tensile strength of 63,000 PSI, and a tensile-strength-to-density ratio that’s higher than any natural metal. It’s also extraordinarily resistant to corrosion.
Chromium is the third hardest element behind carbon (diamond) and boron, and scores 8.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness, However, it’s incredibly brittle, and therefore needs to be combined with other metals for uses that require high yield and tensile strength.