All metals that contain any amount of iron in its basic form is considered a ferrous metal. Because of this, the only ferrous metallic element in the periodic table is iron. Many metals, such as steel, have a percentage or iron, which means they are a ferrous metal. A few examples of ferrous metals are stainless steel, carbon steel and wrought iron.
Nonferrous metals are the opposite of ferrous and do not contain any iron. Alloy metals that are free of iron are also considered nonferrous. All the metals in the periodic table, with the exception of iron, are nonferrous. A few examples of nonferrous metals are aluminum, brass, copper and tungsten steel.
Ferrous and nonferrous metals differ some in their properties. Ferrous metals possess a magnetic attraction and have a great tensile strength since they can carry a high amount of strain. They also have standard metal properties, such as heat and electricity conduction, ductility, malleability and a lustrous appearance. Ferrous metals also have the ability for oxidation, which is known as corrosion. Oxidation of ferrous metals forms as a reddish-brown deposit on the surface and is an oxide of iron.
Nonferrous metals also possess the same basic metal properties. However, nonferrous metals differ from ferrous metals in that they typically have lighter weights, have higher melting points and are basically resistant to corrosion, whether atmospheric or chemical in nature.
Ferrous metals are typically used in applications where strength is the primary focal point. Cast iron is used for many purposes, such as in gates, garden fences, drain covers and manholes. Cast steel is also used for many purposes, such as in tools and decorative hardware.
Nonferrous metals are used in various applications where their properties can be used to their advantage. This is why nonferrous metals are typically used in industrial settings. For example, since nonferrous metals contain a lighter weight, they are beneficial in a machine where it is important for it to weigh less. They are typically used when the magnetic attraction of iron may be a disadvantage. Nonferrous metals are also ideal for electronic and electrical applications.