Steel or aluminum: which is better?

At first glance, the question doesn't really seem obvious - but on many occasions it can actually make sense to choose between steel and aluminum. Here you can find out what advantages and disadvantages both materials have when compared to one another, and when it makes sense to consider them.


Let's look at an example: chainrings for a bicycle. When it comes to durability, steel certainly seems to be more abrasion-resistant and harder, although aluminum can also be hardened. The weight advantage of aluminum (3: 1) probably only plays a role in extreme cases. Technically and theoretically, the advantage here is clearly on the side of steel.

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The practical experience of most professional cyclists is exactly the opposite. In practice, wear seems to be much higher on the steel ring than on the aluminum chainring. The experience is borne out by many.

Other advantages of aluminum

Aluminum is extremely stable, but weighs only a third compared to steel. It can also be hardened and is available in many high-strength alloys. In many areas, the strength values of hard alloys are sufficient for use.

Aluminum is naturally corrosion-resistant, protects itself and is also insensitive to temperature fluctuations. It is UV-resistant, hygienic and magnetically completely neutral. It is easy to shape, powder-coat or anodize.

Comparison between aluminum and steel

Property aluminum steel
durability very high very high
Malleability generally very high partially (depending on the type of steel)
Weight very low twice as high for workpieces
Processing options practically all possible, hardenable surface partially restricted (depending on the type of steel), hardenable surface
Weather resistance very high high for corresponding steels, otherwise low
corrosion no possible (also with stainless steel under certain circumstances)
resistant to temperature fluctuations even more stable at low temperatures, less high temperature resistant stable even at low temperatures, but with a higher melting point
Thermal conductivity very good mediocre
Conductivity very good mediocre
Hygiene and food safety very good very good
Aging Insensitive to weathering, UV-resistant, completely corrosion-resistant some varieties have good corrosion and acid-alkali resistance
ecology high energy consumption in extraction, but 100% recyclable Extraction less ecologically questionable
Tips & Tricks The table above shows that there are definitely some areas where aluminum can be a good substitute for steel.