Difference Between Alloy Steel and Carbon Steel

Main difference

The main difference between alloy steel and carbon steel is that alloy steel is made up of a large number of other elements, while carbon steel is made up of a small number of other elements.

Alloy Steel vs. Carbon Steel

In alloy steel, the alloy is a basic component. In carbon steel, carbon is a fundamental component. Alloy steel is difficult to handle during work. Carbon steel is easy to handle while working. Alloy steel is much more expensive due to the proportion of different alloying elements. Carbon steel is less expensive because it consists of only a small number of other elements. Alloy steel is mainly called an alloy because it consists of a large number of different alloying elements. Carbon steel can also be referred to as steel because, in this steel, iron is also mixed with other elements.

In alloy steel, something like chromium is added with a small amount of carbon and iron. In carbon steel, the amount to be added in the steel may differ according to different things. In the case of alloy steel, other elements are added to the mix to increase its hardness and other properties. In the case of carbon, carbon steel is added to iron to increase its hardness. The element added to the alloy steel basically depends on the use of steel. Carbon steel is also known as plain steel as it contains only carbon as the main component and negligible or minimal amount of other elements.

Alloy steel is commonly called an alloy due to the addition of other elements to iron and carbon, these elements added as an alloy can be boron, manganese, silicon, chromium, nickel, etc. Depending on the carbon concentration, carbon steel is also called by other names, for example, low carbon steel or cast iron.

Comparison chart
steel alloy Carbon steel
A high percentage of other elements are present in alloy steel. A high percentage of carbon is present in carbon steel.
More resistant Low resistance
High Under
Melting point
High Under
High Under
only contains
Iron, carbon and alloy elements carbon and iron

What is alloy steel?

Alloy steel is also said as a metal alloy composed of iron, carbon, and a notable amount of other alloying elements. The alloying element can be silicon, titanium, copper, etc. These elements are called alloying elements because they are used to make an alloy. Alloying elements added to steel to improve the properties of the steel. Alloy steel is classified into two categories. One is low alloy steel and the other is high alloy steel. Low alloy steel consists of lesser amounts of alloying elements. However, high-alloy steel consists of a large number of alloying elements.

Alloying elements are added to steel to make it harder or stronger or to improve its durability and strength. The addition of 100 percent chromium as an alloying element along with carbon and iron makes the steel more resistant to rust or corrosion. Sometimes alloy steel is also called stainless steel. This steel shows the property of corrosion resistance; hence it is used to make kitchen utensils. Alloy steel is mainly used in the production of pipes for energy applications and to make other household appliances such as pots, pans, toasters, etc.

The alloying elements that are added to the metal exhibit different properties. For example, during the steelmaking process, Al, Mn, or Si are added to S and P and to dissolve oxygen. Nickel (Ni), manganese (Mn), silicon (Si), and copper (Cu) are added to increase strength. Chromium (Cr), tungsten (W), molybdenum (Mo), and vanadium (V) also increase resistance.

What is carbon steel?

The alloying elements in carbon steel are present in trace amounts. The alloying elements can be sulfur, silicon, etc. Carbon steel is mainly classified into two different categories; one is high carbon steel and the other is low carbon steel. If carbon is present in a large amount in carbon steel, it exhibits different properties such as less flexibility, low melting point, etc. If carbon is present at about 0.05 percent to 0.25 percent, then carbon steel is known as mild steel or low carbon steel.

Due to the low amount of carbon, the amount of iron is high in this type of steel, which causes corrosion when it is intact with the humid environment. High-carbon carbon steel contains about 0.6 percent to 1.0 percent carbon compound and about 0.9 percent alloying elements. High carbon steel is very hard and tough and not easy to work with. It is mainly used to make building material. This type of carbon steel is also used by knife manufacturers. This type of carbon steel is also used in the manufacture of wire.

Carbon steel is first mechanically cut, properly annealed to make special, expensive tools and appliances. If the carbon steel contains between 0.9% and 2.1% carbon, then it produces super hard carbon steel. Carbon steel with lower carbon content is a more flexible metal. Mild carbon steel is a cheap material. High carbon steel is difficult to wet. Low carbon steel is easy to weld, stronger steel and shows good strength.

Key differences
  1. To alloy steel, alloying elements are added to give it hardness, while carbon steel has carbon added for hardness purposes.
  2. Alloy steel is troublesome to work with; on the other hand, carbon steel is easy to work with.
  3. Alloy steel consists of a large number of other elements; Conversely, carbon steel consists of lesser amounts of elements other than carbon and iron.
  4. The toughness of alloy steel is low; on the other hand, the hardness of carbon steel is high.
  5. Alloy steel is an expensive metal, while carbon steel is cheap or less expensive.
  6. Alloy steel is effective in corrosion resistance, although carbon steel is not effective in corrosion resistance.
  7. Alloy steel has a high melting point compared to carbon steel.
  8. Alloy steel features high weldability and high flexibility compared to carbon steel, which is less flexible.
  9. Alloy steel is mixed steel. However, carbon steel is pure steel.
  10. Alloy steel deals with other alloying elements; on the other hand, carbon steel does not deal with other alloying elements.

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