According to the International Copper Study Group (ICSG), global copper production has declined by around two percent due to shortages in various countries, including Chile (the world’s biggest copper producer), Canada, and Mongolia. Copper, however, remains to be in demand globally because of its use in various industrial applications and the fact that it has no substitutes.
Copper in its purest form has a myriad of end-uses, including tubing for heat exchangers, agricultural sprinkler systems, and seawater feedlines. To expand its use, manufacturers alloy copper with other metals, such as tin and zinc, to form even stronger and more durable materials. Copper, when alloyed with zinc, produces brass. When alloyed with tin, it produces bronze. Following are the main differences between these three metals.
One of the earliest metals ever mined, copper is extensively used for many different applications mainly because of its valuable properties. Apart from having excellent electrical and thermal conductivity, this metal also boasts of formability, strength, and corrosion resistance, which are necessary for making electrical wires, pipes, and pipe fittings. Copper also has an antimicrobial property. Studies have shown that it could kill up to 99.9 percent of bacteria within two hours of contact. It’s no wonder most plumbing and water storage systems are made of copper.
Mixing zinc with copper produces a stronger yet more ductile metal, called brass. This metal can range in color depending on the amount of zinc in the alloy. Because it comes with shiny, yellowish or reddish shade, brass is perfect for making decorative elements. Thanks to its high workability and durability, it can be twisted, flattened, and rolled without breaking, which is why it is also used for making some musical instruments, particularly woodwinds like saxophones and trumpets.
There are many applications in which copper cannot be used because of its apparent softness. To increase its hardness while retaining its tensile strength, tin is usually added. The resulting metal is called bronze. In most cases, small amounts of other elements, such as arsenic, phosphorus, aluminum, manganese, and silicon are added to produce more varieties of bronze. It has high resistance to wear and tear, making it the best material for machine bearings, which are often placed in friction areas.
There is more to copper, bronze, and brass than meets the eye. So the next time you see a reddish or yellowish metal in your house, try to be more inquisitive about its features. You’ll never know when you could possibly use the information you could gather. If, for instance, you are looking to purchase any of these metals for your project, make sure to go to a trusted supplier like Rotax Metals. This supplier has steadily increasing copper, bronze, and brass sales due to the quality of their products and services.
Copper: Preliminary Data for July 2017, ICSG.org
Learn About the Common Uses of Copper, TheBalance.com