What Are The Different Types of Steel Alloys?

Alloy metals can be used to alter the characteristics of steel. By some counts, there are as many as 250,000 different alloys of steel produced. Of these, as many as 200 may be used for civil engineering applications.

Rather than go into the specific characteristics of selected alloys, the general effect of different alloying agents will be presented. Alloy agents are added to improve one or more of the following properties:

1. hardenability
2. corrosion resistance
3. machinability
4. ductility
5. strength

Common alloy agents, their typical percentage range, and their effects are summarized
in Table 3.1.
By altering the carbon and alloy content and by using different heat treatments, steel can be produced with a wide variety of characteristics. These are classified as follows:

1. Low alloy
■ Low carbon
   High strength–low alloy
■ Medium carbon
   Heat treatable
■ High carbon

2. High Alloy
■ Tool
■ Stainless

Steels used for construction projects are predominantly low- and medium-carbon plain steels. Stainless steel has been used in some highly corrosive applications, such as dowel bars in concrete pavements and steel components in swimming pools and drainage lines.

The Specialty Steel Industry of North America, SSINA, promotes the use of stainless steel for structural members where corrosion resistance is an important design consideration (SSINA, 1999).

The use and control of alloying agents is one of the most significant factors in the development of steels with better performance characteristics. The earliest specification for steel used in building and bridge construction, published in 1900, did not contain any chemical requirements.

In 1991 ASTM published the specification which controls content of 10 alloying elements in addition to carbon (Hassett, 2003).

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