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Cast iron

Cast iron is a group of iron-carbon alloys with a carbon content greater than 2%. Its usefulness derives from its relatively low melting temperature. The alloy constituents affect its colour when fractured: white cast iron has carbide impurities which allow cracks to pass straight through, grey cast iron has graphite flakes which deflect a passing crack and initiate countless new cracks as the material breaks, and ductile cast iron has spherical graphite 'nodules' which stop the crack from further progressing. Carbon (C) ranging from 1.8 to 4 wt%, and silicon (Si) 1–3 wt%, are the main alloying elements of cast iron. Iron alloys with lower carbon content are known as steel. Cast iron tends to be brittle, except for malleable cast irons. With its relatively low melting point, good fluidity, castability, excellent machinability, resistance to deformation and wear resistance, cast irons have become an engineering material with a wide range of applications and are used in pipes, machines and automotive industry parts, such as cylinder heads, cylinder blocks and gearbox cases. It is resistant to damage by oxidation. The earliest cast-iron artefacts date to the 5th century BC, and were discovered by archaeologists in what is now Jiangsu in China. Cast iron was used in ancient China for warfare, agriculture, and architecture. During the 15th century, cast iron became utilized for cannon in Burgundy, France, and in England during the Reformation. The amounts of cast iron used for cannon required large scale production. The first cast-iron bridge was built during the 1770s by Abraham Darby III, and is known as The Iron Bridge in Shropshire, England. Cast iron was also used in the construction of buildings. Cast iron is made from pig iron, which is the product of smelting iron ore in a blast furnace. Cast iron can be made directly from the molten pig iron or by re-melting pig iron, often along with substantial quantities of iron, steel, limestone, carbon (coke) and taking various steps to remove undesirable contaminants. Phosphorus and sulfur may be burnt out of the molten iron, but this also burns out the carbon, which must be replaced. Depending on the application, carbon and silicon content are adjusted to the desired levels, which may be anywhere from 2–3.5% and 1–3%, respectively. If desired, other elements are then added to the melt before the final form is produced by casting. Cast iron is sometimes melted in a special type of blast furnace known as a cupola, but in modern applications, it is more often melted in electric induction furnaces or electric arc furnaces. After melting is complete, the molten cast iron is poured into a holding furnace or ladle. Cast iron's properties are changed by adding various alloying elements, or alloyants. Next to carbon, silicon is the most important alloyant because it forces carbon out of solution. A low percentage of silicon allows carbon to remain in solution forming iron carbide and the production of white cast iron. A high percentage of silicon forces carbon out of solution forming graphite and the production of grey cast iron. Other alloying agents, manganese, chromium, molybdenum, titanium and vanadium counteracts silicon, promotes the retention of carbon, and the formation of those carbides. Nickel and copper increase strength, and machinability, but do not change the amount of graphite formed. The carbon in the form of graphite results in a softer iron, reduces shrinkage, lowers strength, and decreases density. Sulfur, largely a contaminant when present, forms iron sulfide, which prevents the formation of graphite and increases hardness. The problem with sulfur is that it makes molten cast iron viscous, which causes defects. To counter the effects of sulfur, manganese is added because the two form into manganese sulfide instead of iron sulfide. The manganese sulfide is lighter than the melt, so it tends to float out of the melt and into the slag. The amount of manganese required to neutralize sulfur is 1.7 × sulfur content + 0.3%. If more than this amount of manganese is added, then manganese carbide forms, which increases hardness and chilling, except in grey iron, where up to 1% of manganese increases strength and density. Nickel is one of the most common alloying elements because it refines the pearlite and graphite structure, improves toughness, and evens out hardness differences between section thicknesses. Chromium is added in small amounts to reduce free graphite, produce chill, and because it is a powerful carbide stabilizer; nickel is often added in conjunction. A small amount of tin can be added as a substitute for 0.5% chromium. Copper is added in the ladle or in the furnace, on the order of 0.5–2.5%, to decrease chill, refine graphite, and increase fluidity. Molybdenum is added on the order of 0.3–1% to increase chill and refine the graphite and pearlite structure; it is often added in conjunction with nickel, copper, and chromium to form high strength irons. Titanium is added as a degasser and deoxidizer, but it also increases fluidity. 0.15–0.5% vanadium is added to cast iron to stabilize cementite, increase hardness, and increase resistance to wear and heat. 0.1–0.3% zirconium helps to form graphite, deoxidize, and increase fluidity.

[ "Forensic engineering", "Composite material", "Archaeology", "Metallurgy", "Adamite", "Ductile iron", "Cast iron pipe", "Malleable iron", "Compacted graphite iron" ]
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