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When working with metals, knowing the melting point is important for many reasons. It reveals a lot about the bond strength between elements and how they can be used, for example. Metals with low melting points can be useful in a variety of ways, such as in solders or fusible alloys. Some even help with safety.
Alloys are mixtures of different elements that have lower melting points than the individual metals themselves. These alloys may be eutectic, meaning that they melt quickly at a specific temperature, or non-eutectic, which means they melt gradually as they heat up with a slushy transition. Generally, eutectic alloys are safer and easier to use than non-eutectic ones.
Eutectic metals like Wood’s metal, containing bismuth, lead, and tin, melt at about 98 degrees Celsius. This non-toxic, low-melting alloy is used as a soldering metal, for casting custom parts, and for restoring antiques, because it can be removed without damaging the object it was cast in. It is also used as a filler in bending metal tubes and as a replacement for the fuse in some fire sprinkler systems.
Non-eutectic metals with low melting points include Field’s metal, a blend of bismuth, indium, and tin, which is commonly used as a soldering metal. The low melting point of this metal allows it to be poured into small-run molds for casting. Another non-eutectic metal with a low melting point is gallium, which is useful in making mirrors. Unlike mercury, liquid gallium is not toxic, but it can still cause third-degree burns if it comes into contact with skin or other substances.