Titanium coolers designed and manufactured by Sterling Thermal Technology

Materials used in industrial heat exchangers

Heat exchangers can be made from a wide range of different materials, depending on the fluids and gases they will handle and the context in which they will be used. This includes everything from steel to zirconium.

Sterling TT is a UK heat exchanger manufacturer, supplying internationally. We’ve put together this article on heat exchanger materials, covering the various common and specific metals used to manufacture heat exchangers, and why each is used.

Read information ‘by material’ for details on specific heat exchangers such as Hastelloy, Inconel or zirconium. Alternatively, skip down to read about materials by purpose, which covers the best materials for corrosion-resistance, high heat contexts and other specific industry requirements.

Heat exchangers by material

Traditional heat exchanger materials include:

  • Admiralty brass / RNB
  • Aluminium
  • Aluminium brass
  • Carbon steel
  • Copper
  • Cupronickel 70/30 and cupronickel 90/10
  • Duplex
  • Super Duplex
  • Monel
  • Stainless steel

However, a range of speciality materials is becoming increasingly popular. Sterling Thermal Technology is an expert in this range of materials.

If you’re looking for a material for your heat exchanger able to handle special requirements, get in touch with us today.

Hastelloy heat exchangers

Hastelloy is a nickel alloy best known for its corrosion resistance, combined with good temperature resistance. There are a variety of Hastelloy alloys each with slightly different properties, but the family overall has outstanding corrosion resistance, stress cracking resistance and are easy to weld and manipulate.

For example, Hastelloy heat exchangers are therefore well suited for use in chemical plants. Hastelloy can cope with corrosive fluids, including petrochemicals. It reduces the need for repairs, compared to less corrosion-resistant options, and therefore minimises any downtime.

Get in touch to discuss your Hastelloy heat exchanger requirements.

Inconel heat exchangers

Inconel is part of a family of nickel-chrome-based superalloys. For example, Inconel 625 is approximately 65% nickel, 22% chromium, 9% molybdenum, and 4% niobium – but there are many other varieties of Inconel.

Similar to Hastelloy, Inconel has excellent corrosion resistant properties. These stand up against corrosive fluids, as well as oxidising agents. It’s also extremely strong and almost completely non-magnetic.

Inconel heat exchangers are therefore commonly used in corrosive environments such as chemical plants and environments with a high risk of oxidising metals which would otherwise lead to a lower lifespan of the heat exchanger.

In addition to the above, because of high strength at elevated temperatures and ability to resist cycling, Inconel 625 has been used in processes that operate at elevated temperatures and for manufacturing expansion bellows.

As Inconel is a particular variety of nickel alloy, it is worth mentioning that Nickel 200 is adopted as a material of choice for pressure vessels (heat exchangers) dealing with alkaline media.

Looking for an Inconel heat exchanger, get in touch to discuss your specifications.

Tantalum heat exchangers

Tantalum, previously known as tantalium, is a relatively rare material. It has a high melting point of 2,850°C and is almost entirely immune to chemical attack at temperatures below 150°C.

These properties make it extremely useful in chemical industries. For example, tantalum heat exchangers can be used in the process of vaporising (or boiling) strong acids.

Sterling TT specialises in bespoke heat exchangers made from specialist materials such as tantalum. To discuss your requirements and see if we might be a good partner, fill out a contact form or give us a call.

Titanium heat exchangers

Titanium coolers designed and manufactured by Sterling Thermal TechnologyIn contrast to tantalum, titanium is the 9th most abundant element on earth. It’s perhaps best known for its strength – particularly high strength-to-weight and strength-to-density ratio. It’s strong while still being lightweight. This property makes it particularly useful for aerospace applications where weight is an important consideration.

Titanium oxidises to create a passive oxide surface film. Unlike when many other metals oxidise, this doesn’t corrode the metal, but instead provides very high corrosion resistance. For example, titanium could be exposed to seawater for three years without showing any corrosion.

Its corrosion resistance means titanium heat exchangers are often used in chemical, oil and gas industries or in marine and MOD (navy ships and submarines) applications. They are very long-lasting, making them an economical choice.

Zirconium heat exchangers

Zirconium is a transition metal that is highly corrosion resistant. It’s also strong and malleable. Like titanium, zirconium oxidises to form a protective oxide layer, giving it its corrosive-resistant properties. This withstands even high pressures and high temperatures.

Zirconium heat exchangers can be used in some of the most corrosive environments, such as chemical processing plants. They’re cost-effective, including reduced maintenance costs thanks to their high corrosion resistance.

If you’re looking for a zirconium heat exchanger manufacturer, get in touch with Sterling TT today. We design and manufacture bespoke products.

Heat exchanger materials by purpose

If you’re not sure what material you need for your heat exchanger, see the lists below of appropriate materials for different applications. We would be happy to discuss your requirements and what material would best suit your application: Contact us.

Material for corrosion-resistant heat exchangers

Corrosion-resistant heat exchangers are common in many industries but perhaps most in chemical processing. Corrosion-resistant heat exchanger materials include:

  • Hastelloy
  • Inconel
  • Tantalum
  • Titanium
  • Zirconium

Materials for high-temperature heat exchangers

 Some heat exchangers have to be able to function effectively and efficiently in high-temperature environments. These are known as HTHEs (high temperature heat exchangers). Appropriate materials include:

  • Nickel-based alloys such as Hastelloy and Inconel
  • Ferritic steels
  • Advanced carbon and silicon carbide composites (often for the highest temperature applications such as rocket nozzles)

Materials for heat exchangers used in seawater environments

Many heat exchangers used in marine, oil & gas and defence applications need to be made from corrosion resistant materials to cope with corrosive seawater such as:

  • Hastelloy
  • Inconel
  • Tantalum
  • Titanium

Finned tube heat exchangers are common in marine applications. These can be made from a wide range of materials, including (but not limited to):

  • Copper-alloys
  • Stainless steel
  • Aluminium
  • Titanium

Contact the Sterling TT team for more information or to submit your enquiry


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