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It used to be said that someone who could eat pretty much anything without developing severe intestinal distress had a "cast iron stomach." Today, it might be better to call it an "alloy 625 stomach." Alloy 625 is, as its name suggests, a metal alloy (combination of more than one metal) that resists both corrosion and oxidation (rust). Although it has been produced and used since the 1960s, it didn't really become a power player in the industrial world until the 1990s. Now it is used in industries ranging from oceanography equipment to nuclear power plant production. And because of its heat tolerance and resistance to both acids and seawater corrosion, it can be found in every hostile environment that Earth, space and man himself could possibly offer.
Alloy 625 comes by its superpowers honestly, through the combination of four main elements: nickel, chromium, molybdenum and niobium. To understand why alloy 625 works as well as it does, take a look at each of these elements and the roles they play in the alloy's abilities:
Nickel and Chromium
These two have been placed together because, like yin and yang, one cannot exist without the other in alloy 625. Well, actually, they can, but together they make for a powerhouse base from which to build the alloy, and without one or the other, the alloy just isn't as strong. Nickel and chromium can be compared to using eggs and milk when baking cookies; they are the wet ingredients that hold everything else together.
No longer relegated to being nothing more than a name for five-cent pieces, nickel helps prevent corrosion from seawater. (Remember that salt consists of sodium and chlorine; it is the chloride molecules that cause corrosion of the metal). It is also useful in preventing oxidation of all the metals in the alloy.
Think of chrome bumpers on a car, and you'll understand the usefulness of chromium in this alloy. It resists everything that could possibly be bad for metal: corrosion, oxidation, and pitting. Especially pitting. Pitting is a form of corrosion in which small holes form in the metal, like cavities in your teeth. It is incredibly dangerous not only because it opens the door for other types of corrosion to take over, but also because it is very hard to prevent in the first place, and initial pitting is very difficult to detect. Having chromium in the alloy is akin to having a permanent fluoride treatment for your teeth. When it reacts with oxygen, it forms a protective film that prevents, rather than promotes, corrosion. Nickel and molybdenum have this ability as well, but chromium really shines (no pun intended) at it.
Sounds like someone's trying to talk underwater, doesn't it? Molybdenum works with the other metals in the alloy to help prevent corrosion. In addition, it also helps strengthen and stiffen the nickel-chromium matrix, making the entire alloy less susceptible to heat. In fact, when combined with the other elements, molybdenum contributes to alloy 625 being able to withstand temperatures up to 1800ºF.
Niobium, like molybdenum, helps strengthen the alloy and prevent corrosion. It is especially good at preventing corrosion from seawater (yet another reason why alloy 625 is used in multiple marine applications). Niobium is often combined with a small amount of tantalum, an element that enhances the protective effects of niobium. However, the amount of tantalum added is usually so small that most people leave it out when talking about niobium.
Alloy 625 is a superhero among metal alloys that makes it the go-to metal in engineering and construction applications around the world. However, just like the Avengers, all of the elements that make up the alloy work best when they work together as a team. This alloy has been around for over fifty years in various forms such as alloy 625 flanges, and with its unique anti-corrosive and heat-resistant properties, there is no reason to believe that it won't last another fifty or even a hundred or thousand years.