Cast iron’s properties are changed by adding various alloying elements, or alloyants. Next to carbon, silicon is the most important alloyant because it forces carbon out of solution. A low percentage of silicon allows carbon to remain in solution forming iron carbide and the production of white cast iron. A high percentage of silicon forces carbon out of solution forming graphite and the production of grey cast iron. Other alloying agents, manganese, chromium, molybdenum, titanium and vanadium counteracts silicon, promotes the retention of carbon, and the formation of those carbides. Nickel and copper increase strength, and machinability, but do not change the amount of graphite formed. The carbon in the form of graphite results in a softer iron, reduces shrinkage, lowers strength, and decreases density. Sulfur, largely a contaminant when present, forms iron sulfide, which prevents the formation of graphite and increases hardness. The problem with sulfur is that it makes molten cast iron viscous, which causes defects. To counter the effects of sulfur, manganese is added because the two form into manganese sulfide instead of iron sulfide. The manganese sulfide is lighter than the melt, so it tends to float out of the melt and into the slag. The amount of manganese required to neutralize sulfur is 1. 7 × sulfur content + 0. 3%. If more than this amount of manganese is added, then manganese carbide forms, which increases hardness and chilling, except in grey iron, where up to 1% of manganese increases strength and density.
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