Strength of Aluminum Tubing Vs. Steel Tubing

By David Dunning; Updated April 24, 2017
Aluminum can be used as a substitute for steel in some applications.

The strength of any material can be described by a physical parameter known as Young’s modulus of elasticity, measured in force per unit area. This parameter can be used to assess the strength of aluminum and steel tubing.

Young’s Modulus

At 70 degrees Fahrenheit, Young’s modulus of elasticity for aluminum is 10 million pounds per square inch (psi). Young’s modulus of elasticity for steel, regardless of its type, is around 30 million psi. This effectively means that steel tubing is three times stronger than aluminum tubing of the same dimensions.

Weight

Size for size, steel is around three times heavier than aluminum. However, because the walls of aluminum tubing need to be three times thicker than steel tubing to achieve the bending strength, any weight advantage is lost.

Diameter

The strength of aluminum or steel tubing is also dependent on the diameter of the tubing. The smaller the diameter of the tubing the more inherent strength it has and vice versa.

About the Author

A full-time writer since 2006, David Dunning is a professional freelancer specializing in creative non-fiction. His work has appeared in "Golf Monthly," "Celtic Heritage," "Best of British" and numerous other magazines, as well as in the book "Defining Moments in History." Dunning has a Master of Science in computer science from the University of Kent.