How Metal and Steel Superalloys Work

benefits limitations spot welding
Benefits and Limitations of SLC Spot Welding
February 3, 2023
basics applications steel beam
Basics and Common Applications of Steel Beam
March 3, 2023
Show all

How Metal and Steel Superalloys Work

metal steel superalloys

Anyone who has worked with steel or other metals is likely aware of the presence of metal alloys, which have been used for thousands of years to improve the properties of a given metal for a specific job need. In modern times, however, this theme has been taken a step further: The presence of certain “superalloys” is now common in metal and steel projects.

At Wasatch Steel, we’re happy to offer a wide range of steel sheet, steel plate and numerous other steel products, plus assistance with alloys, processes and more. What is a superalloy, why have these become so common and popular in steel and other metal areas in recent years, and which industries and applications are they most useful for? Here’s everything you need to know.

What is a Superalloy?

For those who are just learning about them, superalloys are groups of metals that offer even further superior features to traditional alloys – all while maintaining great mechanical properties. You can think of them as the modern “gold standard” for alloys, often allowing for metals to resist strength declines at high temperatures (with several other benefits as well).

It should be noted that, for reasons we’ll go over below, superalloys tend to be more expensive than conventional metal alloys. They’re also more complex to work with, and can be tougher to mold into a desired shape. However, due to the value they bring to certain industries and applications, their presence is growing.

Value of Superalloys

There are a few major areas of value that come with superalloys, including:

  • High temperature resistance: While many metals will begin seeing strength declines at 400 degrees Celsius or even earlier, superalloys often have much higher resistances to heat. This is huge for any project that needs to maintain strength levels in very high temperature areas – such as aerospace or other industries where extreme conditions are expected.
  • Creep resistance: When we talk about creep, we’re referring to the gradual weakening of metals over time when it is subject to high levels of stress or strain. Superalloys offer a much higher resistance to this type of issue, meaning they can be relied on for long-term strength and performance. For areas like turbine blades, for instance, this can be a major issue.
  • Precipitation hardening: Using a two-phase equilibrium process, superalloys can be strengthened by heating them to an exact temperature and then cooling them very quickly. This makes them ideal for applications that require a high level of strength, and protects them against multiple different kinds of failure.

Common Industries and Applications of Superalloys

Superalloys are becoming more popular and widely-used in several industries and common applications, including:

  • Aerospace: Because of the extreme temperatures and conditions found in aircraft engines and other areas, superalloys are essential for maintaining strength and performance. For instance, in turbine blades and other areas, superalloys can help prevent creep failure.
  • Automotive: In engines, exhaust systems and other areas of modern cars and trucks that are subject to high temperatures or stress, superalloys are becoming increasingly common as a means of protecting against long-term problems.
  • Power generation: Superalloys are used in nuclear reactors, turbines and other areas that generate power, due to their high temperature resistance and creep-resistant properties.
  • Chemical processing: In areas of chemical processing, superalloys can protect against corrosion and help with the manufacturing process.
  • Medical services: Certain alloys are used in medical implant devices due to their biocompatibility, making them ideal for life-saving operations.

Only Likely to Increase in Popularity

Over the next handful of years, don’t expect to see superalloys disappear – in fact, quite the opposite. Here are some of the reasons why superalloys are only expected to become more common and popular:

  • Materials becoming more affordable: As various metal alloys become more affordable, the cost of using superalloys will lower. This, in turn, makes them more attractive to potential users – making them more likely to use them and be willing to pay a premium for their superior performance.
  • Improvements in technology: As 3D printing, manufacturing and other technologies improve, it’s becoming easier and more cost-effective to use superalloys in projects. This makes them even more attractive as a means of solving various problems.
  • More specialized performance: The needs of industry continue to become increasingly varied and specialized, and superalloys are becoming more common due to their ability to meet those specific needs. They can be designed and structured in such a way that they can outperform other metals in certain areas, making them ideal for any application where performance and strength are essential.

For more on superalloys, or to learn about any of our steel or other metal products, speak to the metal experts at Wasatch Steel today. We can provide you with more information on superalloys and other metal materials, allowing you to make the best decision for your project.