Steel vs Carbon Steel: Difference and Comparison

Steel and carbon steel are two different kinds of alloys that we use in our daily lives. Both of them are alloys, so they are somehow confused. The two terms are co-related, as carbon steel is a type of steel. There are many key differences between the two terms.

Key Takeaways

  1. Carbon steel contains a higher carbon content than regular steel, increasing strength and hardness.
  2. Steel is more ductile and malleable, allowing easier shaping and forming than carbon steel.
  3. Both materials are strong and durable, but carbon steel is more susceptible to corrosion than regular steel.

Steel vs Carbon Steel

Steel is a metallic alloy composed primarily of iron and carbon, with small amounts of other elements, and containing 0.2% to as much as 2.1% carbon content. Carbon steel is a type of steel that contains a higher percentage of carbon than other types of steel, between 0.6% and 2.1%.

Steel vs Carbon Steel

Steel is an alloy. It is made up of iron. Carbon content is added only a few tenths in percentage. Though not only carbon is added, the content of manganese and silicon is also added. Steel is divided into many sub-divisions based on its properties, characteristics, and quality.

Carbon steel is a type of steel with more weight of carbon content added to it. The carbon percentage in carbon steel by weight is about 0.05 to 2.1 percent. Carbon content added to it increases its strength and hardness. Carbon steel is not stainless steel, which is a term it is confused with.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonSteelCarbon Steel
DefinitionSteel is an alloy with iron as the base element.Carbon steel is a type of steel with more percentage of carbon content in it.
Carbon ContentSteel has a carbon content of only a few tenths of a percentage.Carbon steel has a carbon content of about 0.05 to 2.1 percent by weight.
Corrosion ResistanceSteel has a certain resistance against corrosion.Carbon steel has poor corrosion resistance.
StrengthSteel has lower strength as compared to carbon steel.Carbon steel has high strength.
CostSteel is costly than carbon steel.Carbon steel is cheaper as compared to steel.

What is Steel?

Steel is an alloy. The main element or the base metal of steel is iron. Some other elements are also added in low quantities, like carbon, silicon, manganese, etc. The carbon content in steel is only a few tenths of a percentage. This low carbon content is added to improve the steel’s strength and fracture resistance.

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Steel is alloyed with many elements to increase its properties. Elements like chromium, nickel, molybdenum, etc., are added as well. Final steel is made by varying the amount of these elements and controlling their physical and chemical composition. The addition of other elements in proportionate quantity enhances properties like strength, hardness, ductility, yield strength, tempering behavior, etc.

Steel makes the largest industry in the world, almost 1.6 billion tons of steel is produced every year. Steel is used in infrastructure, ships, railways, machines, cars, tools, and weapons. Steel is divided into its types based on its properties. The four main types of steel are carbon steel, alloy steel, stainless steel, and tool steel.

Iron is smelted from its ore and is reprocessed to make steel. During the reprocessing, the carbon content is reduced, and other elements are added. The carbon content is reduced as the iron extracted from its ore has more quantity of carbon than required.


What is Carbon Steel?

Carbon steel is a type of steel with more percentage of carbon content added to it. The percentage of carbon content by weight which is added to it, is about 0.05 to 2.1. More added carbon content increases the hardness and strength of the steel. It also makes it less ductile and less malleable. Also, it reduces the weldability and melting point of the steel. The carbon content added increases the strength, although it also leaves elasticity.

Because of its increased strength, carbon steel is used more. Carbon steel makes the major share in the production of steel. Utensils like pans, pots, etc., are made of carbon steel. Caron steel also exhibits ferromagnetism, which is why it is used widely in making electrical appliances and parts of automobiles.

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Carbon steel doesn’t have a luster finish. Also, it has poor rust resistance; therefore, it requires an extra protective coating in a corrosive environment.

According to the AISI classification, carbon steel is divided into four types based on carbon content: Low-carbon steel, Medium-carbon steel, High-carbon steel, and Ultra high-carbon steel. Low-carbon steel has a carbon content of about 0.05 to 0.25%. Similarly, medium carbon steel has 0.3–0.5%, high-carbon steel has 0.6 to 1.0%, and Ultra-high carbon has 1.25–2.0% of carbon content.

Main Differences Between Steel And Carbon Steel

  1. In steel, the carbon content is low, and other elements are also added. In carbon steel, the carbon content is more in percentage as compared to steel.
  2. Steel has low strength as compared to carbon steel.
  3. Steel is also less hard as compared to carbon steel.
  4. Steel is more ductile as compared to carbon steel.
  5. Steel has high weldability as compared to carbon steel. The carbon content in carbon steel reduces weldability.
  6. Steel has a higher melting point as compared to carbon steel.
Difference Between Steel And Carbon Steel

Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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10 thoughts on “Steel vs Carbon Steel: Difference and Comparison”

  1. It’s fascinating the difference in properties that the amount of carbon in the steel can make! It’s also very interesting to see the division of carbon steel in different types. Great article.


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