Aluminum vs. Stainless Steel: What’s the Difference?
There are several differences between aluminum and stainless steel that you should keep in mind while planning your next metal project.
During these tight financial times, cost is an important factor. Aluminum is typically cheaper than stainless steel, which makes aluminum more cost effective. You need to consider what you are using the metal for when considering the cost.
Stainless steel is the stronger metal (as long as weight is not a consideration). It is incredibly durable and heavy duty.
Strength vs. Weight
Aluminum is almost one third of the weight of steel. This is the main reason why aircrafts are made from aluminum. Steel has higher strength, though.
Aluminum is softer and easier to cut and form. Stainless steel can be difficult to work with, but it has a high resistance to wear and abrasion. Stainless steels are harder, which makes them more difficult to form than aluminum.
Stainless steel is made up of iron, chromium, nickel, manganese and copper. The chromium is added to help prevent corrosion (rust). Also, because it is non-porous, its resistance to corrosion is increased.
Aluminum also has a high corrosion resistance, mainly because it has a special layer. However, when aluminum is oxidized, its surface will turn white and will sometimes pit. In some extreme acidic or base environments, aluminum may corrode rapidly and could cause great damage.
Stainless steel is relatively easy to weld, while aluminum can be difficult. If you are looking for a metal for a welding project, stainless steel could be the better option.
Stainless steel can be used at much higher temperatures than aluminum. Aluminum can become very soft above about 400 degrees. Stainless steel should be your choice if the metal is going to be exposed to extreme heat.
Aluminum is the better thermal conductor of heat. This is one of the main reasons it is used for car radiators and air conditioning units.
Effect on Foods
If you are going to be using the metal in your kitchen, you need to take into effect how food reacts with the metal. Stainless steel is less reactive with foods. Aluminum can react to foods, especially acidic, which may affect color and flavor. For example, eggs turn green from a chemical reaction between the aluminum and egg.
If you need a softer metal that is cost efficient, easy to work with and manipulate, and still has a sleek look, consider aluminum sheet metal. If you need a metal that is heavy duty, able to withstand heat, and has a heavy weight to it, stainless steel is most likely the best choice for you.
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