Copper and its Alloys

Copper’s performance can be expanded to suit many industrial applications. This is achieved by alloying: making a solid material out of two or more different metals. By combining copper with other metals, alloys can be made to fit almost any application.

The Copper Alloys Tree

There are more than 400 copper alloys, each with a unique combination of properties, to suit many applications, manufacturing processes and environments.

Pure copper has the best electrical and thermal conductivity of any commercial metal. Today, over half of the copper produced is used in electrical and electronic applications and this leads to a convenient classification of the types of copper into electrical (high conductivity) and non-electrical (engineering). Read more.

Copper forms alloys more freely than most metals and with a wide range of alloying elements to produce the following alloys:

Brass is the generic term for a range of copper-zinc alloys with differing combinations of properties, including strength, machinability, ductility, wear-resistance, hardness, colour, antimicrobial, electrical and thermal conductivity, and corrosion-resistance.  Read more.

Bronze alloys are made from copper and tin, and were the first to be developed about four thousand years ago. They were so important that they led to a period in time being named the Bronze Age.  Read more.

Gunmetals are alloys of copper with tin, zinc and lead and have been used for at least 2000 years due to their ease of casting and good strength and corrosion resistance.  Read more.

Copper-nickel alloys have excellent resistance to marine corrosion and biofouling.  The addition of nickel to copper improves strength and corrosion resistance, but good ductility is retained.  Read more.

Nickel silver alloys are made from copper, nickel and zinc, and can be regarded as special brasses. They have an attractive silvery appearance rather than the typical brassy colour.  Read more.

Beryllium copper is the hardest and strongest of any copper alloy, in the fully heat treated and cold worked condition. It is similar in mechanical properties to many high strength alloy steels but, compared to steels, it has better corrosion resistance.  Read more.

Related Resources

Here are related resources.  To browse and search all resources, visit the Resource Library.

    Pub TN44 - Machining Brass, Copper and Copper Alloys
    £ 0.00
    Design and manufacture
    alloys, brass, coppers, design, Industry, machining, manufacturing
    Detailed advice on machining as a production technique. Guidance on materials selection where good machinability is important. Basic information and guidance for those who know what material is to be machined. Advice on the selection of cutting fluids. 1992. 65pp.
    Pub TN27 - High Conductivity Coppers: Technical Data
    Electrical systems
    alloys, conductivity , coppers, electrical, property, standards, technical
    These data sheets, originally published in a series from 1968 - 1972, cover all the main coppers and copper alloys. They contain an invaluable summary of data relating to the physical and mechanical properties of the materials at low, ambient and elevated temperatures which is not available elsewhere.
    Pub TN26 - Brasses, Nickel Brass and Nickel Silver - Technical Data
    Design and manufacture
    alloys, brass, Industry, manufacturing, nickel silver, property, sheet , technical
    These data sheets, originally published 1968 - 1972, contain an invaluable summary of data relating to the physical and mechanical properties of the materials at low, ambient and elevated temperatures which is not available elsewhere.
    Pub 225 - Copper Alloys in Seawater: Avoidance of Corrosion
    Marine
    alloys, bronze, copper-nickel, corrosion, gunmetal, property, seawater
    Practical guidance for engineers on the avoidance of corrosion in copper alloys for seawater applications. 2016. 20 pp.
    Pub 223 - Copper for Contacts
    Electrical systems
    alloys, applications, contacts, coppers, electrical
    This publication looks at the properties required for contact materials, and to identify those applications in which copper or copper alloys have special advantages. 1980, revised 2015. 36pp.
    Pub 222 - Guide to Nickel Aluminium Bronze for Engineers
    £ 0.00
    architecture, alloys, fabrication, applications, engineer, bronze, corrosion, marine, property, resistance
    Practical guidance for engineers wishing to specify, design or produce nickel aluminium bronze components for marine, aerospace and other sectors. 2016. 100 pp.
    Pub 214 - Antimicrobial Copper Alloys: Guidance for Selection
    Healthcare
    alloys, antimicrobial, care homes, design, designer, hospital, property
    This publication offers designers, manufacturers and specifiers guidance on identifying the most appropriate copper alloy for a product. The guide features a table of commonly available alloys, representing the different copper-alloy families, listing compositions and properties and ordered by colour. 2013. 16pp.
    Pub 206 - Copper Alloys in Marine Environments
    Design and manufacture, Marine
    alloys, beryllium, brass, bronze, copper-nickel, corrosion, marine, property, resistance, seawater
    This publication focuses on the properties and corrosion resistance of a wide range of copper alloys used for seawater service - ranging from commercial grades of copper through copper-nickels, bronze,  brass and copper beryllium.  It allows the reader to understand potential types of corrosion mechanisms for the different alloy types and how to avoid them. 2012. 32pp.
    Pub 202 - Practical Aspects of Reducing Bioburden with Copper: Clinical Case Study: Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham
    Healthcare
    alloys, antimicrobial, clinical trial, healthcare-associated infections, hospital, infections, installation, pathogenic microbes, touch surface
    The clinical trial at Selly Oak Hospital demonstrated a 90-100% reduction in contamination on copper-containing vs standard surfaces. The experience of fitting out the test ward with copper-containing products has made a major contribution to the understanding of the practical application of the science. October 2009. 4pp.
    Pub 198 - The Benefits of Designing with Antimicrobial Copper Alloys
    Healthcare
    alloys, antimicrobial, care homes, design, designer, healthcare-associated infections, hospital, infections, touch surface
    Introductory brochure for architects and designers providing an overview on using the inherent antimicrobial property of copper to design out infection in critical environments such as hospitals and care homes, where touch surfaces can act as reservoirs for dangerous germs. Updated May 2013. 2pp.
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No other metal has a range of attractive colours comparable to copper and its alloys. The red of copper, the gold of the brasses and aluminium bronzes, the chocolate-brown of manganese bronzes, the green patina and the shiny white nickel-silver enable designers to exploit copper in infinite ways.

Copper-based Electrical Conductivity Alloys

This section introduces coppers and copper alloys for conductivity applications and provides details of properties and uses.
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