The malleable materials are those that, even though they are hard, can be deformed by decompression without suffering fractures, that is, they can significantly alter their length and shape. For example: aluminum, iron, copper, bronze. The term comes from the Latin malleus, which means “hammer”.
Unlike ductile materials, from which threads can be obtained by applying a force, malleability allows thin layers of the material in question, called sheets, to be made. This process is called lamination and can be done by hammering, continuous pressure, or other mechanisms.
The malleability is important in the industrial handling of certain minerals and metals, since within certain ranges malleable materials can acquire any necessary shape without breaking, unlike brittle materials. This is a more common characteristic of metallic materials than non-metallic ones, which are often brittle.
The malleability, in fact, is used as a metaphor in everyday language to refer to personalities, organizations or opinions that are easily influenced or manipulated, meaning that it does not take too much effort to alter their decisions or opinions.
Examples of malleable materials
- Gold: this precious metal is the most malleable material known to man. It is possible to obtain gold sheets one ten thousandth of a millimeter thick. This gives it a privileged use in jewelery and other commercial applications since it allows cheaper metals to be coated in gold.
- Silver: it is another precious metal, extremely abundant in nature and of notable malleability, ductility, softness, luster and white color. In fact, the name of silver comes from the Latin platus, which means “flat” and which alluded to the flat sheets of metal that are easily obtainable.
- Platinum: this precious, heavy and highly resistant to corrosion metal is in high demand to take advantage of its malleability and to make jewelry, electronic components, vehicular and petroleum catalysts, as well as neurosurgery devices and other medical applications.
- Aluminum: perhaps one of the most common examples of malleability is aluminum, a very abundant material in the earth’s crust (around 8%), non-ferromagnetic, a good conductor of heat and electricity but above all extremely malleable. This is how the aluminum foil present in all our kitchens is manufactured.
- Iron: this heavy and ferromagnetic metal has the property of being ductile and malleable at the same time, but also easily oxidized. That is why it is preferred to work it in alloys (with carbon, silicon and other metals), obtaining steel. The latter preserves part of the properties of iron, although they are attenuated by its new components. Carbon, in particular, makes the alloy brittle.
- Copper: it is a reddish metal, shiny and, together with silver, one of the best known electrical conductors. Thanks to this and its extreme ductility and malleability (it can be deformed with the hands), it is the most used material for power lines and various electrical and electronic components. In addition, many of its alloys retain this deformation capacity, as is the case with brass.
- Brass: this is the name given to the alloy of copper with zinc, golden in color, non-ferromagnetic and cold malleable. The fact that it does not produce sparks due to metallic impact, and is resistant to oxidation and salinity, make it an ideal industrial material for a multitude of applications, from ship components to everyday tools and food packaging.
- Bronze. Another alloy of copper, this time with tin, was one of the most significant metals in the history of mankind, so much so that it gives its name to a prehistoric period: the “Bronze Age”. It was used to make weapons, utensils, jewelry, medals, coins, sculptures and endless applications to this day, since it is a malleable metal, resistant to corrosion and friction.
- Nickel It is a yellowish-white transition metal, a good conductor of heat and electricity, ferromagnetic at room temperature and very ductile and malleable, despite being one of the densest metals known, along with iridium, iron and osmium. It has properties similar to iron and, together with this, constitutes the core of our planet, so it is in principle an abundant mineral. It is also one of the most demanded metals in human industry.
- Lead: this matte gray heavy metal is very particular among known metallic elements due to its enormous molecular flexibility. This motivated its late inclusion in the periodic table. Lead is inelastic, malleable to some degree, and has been used since ancient times to make sheets for writing or engraving.
- Tin: it is a silvery, malleable, easily oxidizable and corrosion-resistant metal that is widely used in the metallurgical industry as a component of alloys, to provide other metals with their anti-corrosion properties. It is famous because when bending a bar of this material a characteristic sound is produced, called the “tin cry”, the result of the friction of the crystals that comprise it.
- Steel: as we have already said, steel is the product of the various alloys to which iron can be subjected, altering its properties to make it more resistant to corrosion, harder and more brittle, etc. Depending on the desired property, a component of carbon, tin, zinc, silica or other materials will be added, which will influence to a greater or lesser extent its ductility and its malleability, one of the main attributes that steel obtains from iron.
- Titanium: it is the seventh most abundant metal in the earth’s crust. It is light, resistant to erosion and corrosion, a good electrical conductor and is also malleable, so mechanical methods can be used to manufacture plates, bars, sheets and many of their commercial presentations.
- Indium: this very soft and malleable easily meltable metal is chemically similar to gallium and aluminum, despite being a rare element in the earth’s crust. When bent it produces a characteristic sound, like tin, and its relative toxicity has been investigated, despite which it is used extensively in soldering processes.
- Cadmium: long used in batteries and energy processes, this metallic element is very similar in properties to zinc, except for being an important environmental pollutant and a highly toxic metal for life. It is silvery white, very bright, very ductile and malleable, and has a neutron absorption capacity that makes it ideal for nuclear power plants.