Tin is one of the most widely used and well-known metals available today. It can be applied to various projects, from tiling to food storage. But what is tin, and what makes it such a versatile metal?
Tin is a very soft, light-colored metal that is malleable and easy to melt. Due to the metal’s softness, it is rarely used as a pure metal. Instead, it is generally melted together with harder substances to create alloys. Alloys have a lower toxicity level than many other metallic minerals and are highly resistant to corrosion. Since tin is so soft, on its own it can be bent and stretched without damage, making it a well-suited addition to many daily demands.
Tin is generally found in cassiterite, a mineral that is composed of nearly 80% tin. This mineral is often found in riverbeds which have caught the byproduct of eroded ore bodies that contained the metal.
There is often a misconception about what is actually made of tin. Generally, things thought of as tin actually only feature a component of the mineral. Tin cans, for instance, do contain a layer of tin, but the interior of the can is created from a steel sheet-metal called tinplate. Tinplate is a combination of steel and tin, giving cans the clean looking shine consumers expect but endowing the product with the strength and lack of malleability that thin steel possesses. Tin foil also is something of a misnomer. While at one point kitchen foil was constructed from pure tin, it has more recently been replaced by thin aluminum sheets.
That isn’t to say that tin has no place in the modern world. On the contrary, tin is extremely versatile in combination with other metals. In the technological realm, tin’s low melting point makes it a perfect candidate to bond electronic materials. Moreover, when used with sturdier metals such as bronze, tin can be used to create weapons and cutlery.
Tin alloys also play a large role in today’s society. They can be used as bearings, in aerospace construction, and in automobile parts. Tin contributes a lightness to the metal it is combined with that makes it ideal for many mechanical uses.
So while tin isn’t often found as a metal by itself, it is still a widely known and well used element, and also extremely useful. From household products to ceiling tiles, we depend on tin for many daily activities.