Difference Between Low Carbon Steel and High Carbon Steel

Low Carbon Steel vs High Carbon Steel
 

The difference between low carbon steel and high carbon steel, as the name implies, stems from the amount of Carbon in the steel. In general, steel is referred to as ‘Carbon Steel’ where the main alloying component used is Carbon and when no other elemental requirement is specified such as Chromium, Cobalt, Nickel. Just as the definition suggests, High carbon steel contains a higher amount of carbon and in low carbon steel there is a less percentage of carbon.

What is High Carbon Steel?

Usually, high carbon steel contains about 0.30 – 1.70% carbon by weight. Increasing the carbon percentage in steel gives it additional strength and it is also considered as the most economical approach to increasing the strength of steel. However, as a result of adding more carbon, the steel also tends to become brittle and less ductile. Therefore, the right balance of carbon has to be added in order to achieve extra performing steel.

High carbon steel can undergo heat treatment better than low carbon steel and hence is very useful in many applications. Other elemental impurities can also bring quite interesting properties to steel; for example, Sulphur. Some common applications of high steel carbon include rail steels, pre-stressed concrete, wire rope, tire reinforcement, knives, saw blades, gear wheels, chains, etc.

Difference Between Low Carbon Steel and High Carbon Steel

Common applications of high steel carbon include cutting tools

What is Low Carbon Steel?

This is the most common type of steel used today due to the relatively low manufacturing price. It usually contains a carbon percentage around 0.05 – 0.15% by weight. Low carbon steel is generally softer and weaker than other types of steel, but it is capable of providing material properties at acceptable standards for many industrial and day-to-day applications.

The advantage of it being softer and weaker makes it easy to weld and can be transformed into different shapes giving rise to a whole range of different products. It is usually made into flat rolled sheets or strips of steel. As a result of its malleability, low carbon steel can even be rolled into car body panels. When low carbon steel is used to make panels, the carbon content in steel is kept very low around 0.05%. But a higher carbon content around 0.15% is required when manufacturing steel structural plates, forgings, etc. Low carbon steel is used to make a wide variety of products. Home appliances, vehicle body parts, low carbon steel wire, and tin plates are some of the most common applications.

 Low Carbon Steel vs High Carbon Steel

Carbon steel wire – a common application of low carbon steel

What is the difference between Low Carbon Steel and High Carbon Steel?

• Carbon Content:

• High carbon steel has a carbon percentage of 0.30 – 1.70% by weight.

• Low carbon steel has a carbon content of 0.05 – 0.15% by weight.

• Strength:

• High carbon steel is stronger than low carbon steel.

• Brittleness:

• High carbon steel is brittle and can break easily when compared to low carbon steel.

• Welding:

• High carbon steel is rough making it difficult to weld it into different shapes.

• Due to the softer and weaker properties of low carbon steel it can be easily welded into different shapes.

• Heat Treatment:

• High carbon steel can successfully undergo heat treatment than low carbon steel.

• Common Applications of Low Carbon Steel and High Carbon Steel:

• Some common applications of high carbon steel are rail steels, pre-stressed concrete, wire rope, tire reinforcement, knives, saw blades, gear wheels, and chains.

• Some common applications of low carbon steel are vehicle body parts, low carbon steel wire, and tin plates.

• Price:

• High carbon steel is more expensive.

• Low carbon steel is cheaper.

 

Images Courtesy:

  1. Knife by Hohum (CC BY-SA 3.0)
  2. Steel wire by  Materialscientist (CC BY-SA 3.0)