What is a metal?
What is a metal?

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4 Uses of metals

Metals are extremely useful in our everyday lives and are used in a wide range of situations.

  • Write down as many uses of metals as you can think of.

  • You might have thought of uses in, for example:

    • construction
    • electronic devices
    • transportation
    • food processing
    • biomedical applications.

Different metals are used for different purposes (Figure 12). For example, in construction, the alloy steel is the usual choice for structural building materials due to its strength and flexibility while copper is used for a range of architectural parts such as roofs and gutters, due to its durability and appearance.

As discussed, metals are good conductors and play an important role in electronics. For example, copper is commonly used in electrical wiring; gold is used in many computer technologies and silver is often used in electronic circuitry.

Aluminium has become one of the most commonly used metals in aircraft manufacturing, shipbuilding and the train and automobile industry. Aluminium is a resistant and light material that reduces the weight of transport vehicles, minimising their fuel consumption.

In the case of the food and drink industry, stainless steel is the ideal alloy due to its inertness and resistance to any acids present in foods. It is also tolerant to a wide range of temperatures allowing heating and freezing, and stainless steel equipment can be repeatedly sterilised.

Metals have also been extensively used as medical implants. Stainless steel and titanium alloys are commonly used in biomedical devices, such as joint replacement parts, while gold, silver and platinum are often used in dentistry. Anti-cancer drugs with different metals are also commonly used in chemotherapy.

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Figure 12 Common uses of metals in our daily lives.
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