Copper-nickels

Copper-nickels

The addition of nickel to copper improves strength and corrosion resistance without reducing the good ductility. Copper-nickel alloys have excellent resistance to marine corrosion and biofouling.

The two main alloys are 90/10 (90% copper, 10% nickel) and 70/30 (70% copper, 30% nickel). The 70/30 is the stronger and has greater resistance to seawater flow, but the 90/10 will provide good service for most applications and, being less expensive, tends to be more widely used. Both alloys contain small but important additions of iron and manganese which have been chosen to provide the best combination of resistance to flowing seawater and to overall corrosion.

Copper-nickel alloys are widely used for marine applications due to their excellent resistance to seawater corrosion, high inherent resistance to biofouling and ease of fabrication. They have provided reliable service for several decades whilst offering effective solutions to today’s technological challenges.

90/10 copper-nickel inlet/outlet manifolds for a seawater filtration unit (Courtesy IMI Dreh Ltd)
90/10 copper-nickel inlet/outlet manifolds for a seawater filtration unit (Courtesy IMI Dreh Ltd)

Applications

  • Seawater pipework
  • Offshore fire water systems
  • Heat exchangers and condensers
  • Sheathing of legs and risers on offshore platforms and boat hulls
  • Hydraulic lines
  • Fish cages for aquaculture
  • Desalination units.
90-10 copper-nickel pipework in a seawater cooling line on an offshore gas platform
90-10 copper-nickel pipework in a seawater cooling line on an offshore gas platform (Courtesy IMI Dreh Ltd)

Copper-nickel Fabrication Guide

This publication provides an understanding of the two primary copper-nickel alloys to allow good fabrication and operational practices. Topics covered include general engineering properties of 90/10 and 70/30 copper-nickels, welding and fabrication practices and a basic overview of corrosion and biofouling resisting properties

Copper-nickel Fabrication Guide

Download the Copper-nickel Fabrication Guide

View the Series of 5 Training Videos on Welding of Copper-nickel

  1. Cleaning and preparation for welding of copper-nickel alloy
  2. TIG welding copper-nickel alloy
  3. Pipe welding copper-nickel alloy
  4. Shielded metal arc welding copper-nickel alloy
  5. Pulsed MIG welding copper-nickel alloy

FAQs

Are 90-10 welding consumables available for welding 90-10 copper-nickel?

They are available but 70-30 copper-nickel consumables are preferred for welding both the 90-10 and 70-30 alloys due to superior deposition characteristics.

Are copper-nickel alloys immune to fouling in seawater?

As for copper, copper nickels have a high inherent resistance to macrofouling. However, there will be normally be colonisation of microfouling (slimes).

Can copper-nickels be brazed?

Yes they can be brazed by all processes. Appropriate silver brazing alloys should be used as phosphorus bearing brazing alloys cause a reaction with nickel to form a brittle phosphide phase.

Can copper-nickels be welded directly to steel?

Yes they can using appropriate 65% nickel-copper consumables to avoid iron dilution effects.

Is it just pure copper that has an antimicrobial effect?

No, copper alloys also do. Tests have been performed on pure copper, high coppers, brasses, bronzes, copper-nickels and copper-nickel-zincs (sometimes referred to as nickel silvers because of their shiny white colour, even though they contain no silver.  Alloys with higher copper content kill organisms faster but, as a general rule, alloys with >60% copper have good efficacy.

‘Antimicrobial Copper’ is shorthand for these efficacious alloys.  When choosing a copper alloy for a product it is important to balance the requirements for mechanical properties, manufacturing process and, of course, colour.  Copper alloys provide a palette of attractive colours from the yellow of brasses to the dark browns of bronzes.

Is post weld heat treatment required when welding copper-nickel alloys?

Post weld heat treatment is normally unnecessary.

We have supplied copper nickel tubes to the UK from overseas. The wooden boxes containing the tubes became saturated with rain water at the port of exit and on arrival in the UK were heavily tarnished (green). Is there any way of cleaning the tubes?

If the oxide is tenacious, grit blasting may be required. This should be followed by pickling in a hot 5-10% sulphuric acid solution containing 0.35 g/litre potassium dichromate. The pickled tubes should be rinsed thoroughly in hot fresh water and finally dried in hot air.

What types of corrosion are copper-nickels sensitive to?

It is important that maximum velocity guidelines are adhered to for piping and heat exchanger/condenser service, as high velocities can cause impingement attack. Exposure to sulphides and ammonia in polluted seawater can lead to pitting or high corrosion rates and it is important to avoid these conditions, particularly during commissioning, start up and standby.

When does macrofouling occur on copper-nickels?

The copper nickel needs to be freely exposed and not galvanically connected to less noble alloys to get the best overall resistance to biofouling. Prolonged exposure to quiet waters might lead to some colonisation of macrofouling but is normally loosely attached and can often be removed very easily by a light scraping action.

Which grade of copper is used for vehicle brake pipes?

Copper and copper-nickel tubes are used for vehicle brake pipes due to their good fatigue and corrosion resistance (especially against salt on the roads), where fluid loss could be disastrous. Because of their ductility, they are easy to fit; they are standard equipment for many cars, fire engines, military vehicles, JCBs and other heavy vehicles.

www.coppernickel.org is the global website providing a detailed overview of copper-nickel with data to allow good practices in design, fabrication and application.