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Metallic substance composed of two or more elements, as either a mixture, compound, or solid solution. The components of alloys are ordinarily themselves metals, though carbon is an essential nonmetal component of steel. Alloys are usually produced by melting the mixture of ingredients. The value of alloys was discovered in very ancient times; brass (copper and zinc) and bronze (copper and tin) were especially important. Today the most important are the alloy steels, which have a wide range of special properties, including hardness, toughness, corrosion resistance, magnetizability, and workability.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on alloy, visit Britannica.com.