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7.

COPPER AND ITS ALLOYS

7.1. INTRODUCTION
The most important property of pure copper is its good electrical conductivity -- being second
only to that of silver. The conductivity is at its best in the pure annealed metal and is greatly
affected (reduced) by impurities. The effect of impurities on the conductivity is shown
schematically in fig. 8.1 from which it can be seen that the most profound effect is caused by
phosphorous and silicon. However, cadmium reduces the conductivity only nominally and is
usually added to copper for telephone wires to improve the strength.

Nearly all alloying elements increase the strength of copper.

The only exceptions are

bismuth and antimony. These are insoluble in copper and collect at the grain boundaries
causing brittleness.

7.2 COPPER ALLOYS


Copper forms two commercially important series of alloys -- brasses and bronzes which are
the most important general purpose industrial materials after cast iron and steel.

7.2.1 Brasses
Brasses are principally alloys of copper and zinc with up to 45% Zn. They are important due
to the following properties: a wide range of mechanical properties, they are soft and easy to
work, have a pleasant appearance and are largely resistant to corrosion.
Brasses can be divided into two major groups: brasses and brasses. brasses
contain up to 38% zinc and consist of a single phase (a solution of copper in zinc) at room
temperature.

, being a solid solution, is soft and ductile.

The highest ductility

(approximately 69%) occurs at about 30% Zn. -brasses are therefore suitable for cold
working and are cold rolled into sheets, rods, tubes and wires.
The most popular -brasses is the 70/30 brass (with 70% copper, 30% zinc). The strength of
brasses is increased by cold working.

brasses on the other hand contain between 38 and 46% copper. They consist of two
phases and (') at room temperature. brasses have relatively high strength but much
reduced ductility. Being multi-phase and having a low ductility at room temperature,
brasses cannot be easily cold worked. They are usually hot worked above 470C (and
preferably above 800C) where they consist of the single phase .
brasses are suitable for hot working (extrusion, hot rolling, etc.) - the most abundant
commercial variety being the 60/40 (40% Zn) brass.

There is a rapid fall in both the strength and the ductility for alloys containing more than 45%
Zn due to the appearance of the brittle phase .

Other commercially available brasses include: leaden brass or free machining brass. This is
brass to which 1.5 - 3.5% lead has been added to improve the machinability (lead is insoluble
in copper and collects at grain boundaries making it easier for chips to break during
machining); high tensile brass - brass to which one or more of the following elements
has been added to improve the strength: iron, aluminium, manganese, tin, nickel. High
tensile brass can have ultimate tensile strengths up to 740 MN/m2.

7.2.2 Bronzes
The alloy most often referred to as bronze is tin--bronze. This alloy contains about 10% tin.
The relevant portion of the equilibrium diagram is shown in fig. 8.3, from which the
equilibrium phases at room temperature should be + . However diffusion is so slow that
the structure remains (solution of Sn in Cu) at room temperature. is tough and ductile
and hence is cold workable. Tin bronze, which is the most abundant bronze commercially,
contains about 7% Sn and is supplied as rolled sheets or rods.

Tin bronzes are also supplied as cast alloys with about 18% Sn. These alloys however have a
problem of coring which may make the brittle phase appear at phase boundaries. To be
useful, these cast alloys need prolonged annealing at about 700C to form which is then
cold worked. The unannealed cast alloys are used for bearings due to their high wear and
shock resistance.

There are four other commercially available bronzes containing elements other than (or in
addition to) tin:

(i) phosphor bronze. These contain 0.1 - 1.0% phosphorous in addition to copper and tin.
Phosphorus increases the strength and improves the corrosion resistance. They may be
supplied wrought (as wires or rods) or cast. They are used for bearings requiring high
strength due to their low coefficient of friction.

(ii) bronzes containing zinc. Contain about 3% Sn together with approximately 2.5% Zn.
The alloy is used making "copper" coins. When cast (10% Sn; 2% Zn), zinc bronzes are used
for corrosion resistant castings and for military decoration "gunmetal".

(iii) leaden bronzes. These are tin bronzes containing about 2% lead which improves their
machinability. The bronzes have good thermal conductivity and are used in high speed
bearings e.g., aircraft and automobile crankshaft bearings.

(iv) aluminium bronze. These are alloys of copper and aluminium. The relevant part of the
equilibrium diagram is shown in fig. 8.4 and shows a eutectoid reaction at 565C (11.8% Al).
Due to this eutectoid reaction, heat treatment (hardening), similar to formation of martensite
in steels, is possible. A 10% Al alloy for example consists of at 900C. This can be water
quenched to produce ' (a non-equilibrium phase) which is hard and brittle.

In addition to their capability to undergo heat treatment, aluminium bronzes have the
following useful properties:

i) they retain their strength at high temperatures.


ii) they have good resistance to corrosion which is retained at high temperatures.
iii) they have good wear resistance.
iv) they have a pleasant gold like appearance and are hence used in imitation jewellery.

It can be seen from fig. 8.4 that (as in the case of brasses) there are two series of alloys:
alloys - usually contain 4 to 7% Al with the microstructure consisting of the single phase
(solution of Al in Cu). They are used in manufacture of condenser tubing and for imitation

jewellery. Being single phase, they are cold workable, have moderate strength and good
corrosion resistance.
alloys: contain 7 to 12% Al and consist of two phase and at room temperature
(under equilibrium conditions). Like steels, they can be hot worked (forged/hot rolled) after
heating to the single phase . They are used in chemical engineering plants especially those
exposed to high temperatures. This is mainly due to their corrosion resistance at high
temperatures.

Aluminium bronzes can also be cast (9 to 12% Al) and the cast alloys used in marine
applications (pump rods, propellors, etc.), auto engines (valve seats, spark plug bodies), for
manufacture of heavy duty bearings and in manufacture of gears.

7.2.3 Cu-Ni alloys


In presence of tin, copper nickel alloys have a silvery appearance and are used in the
manufacture of "silver" coins. They are also used as electrical resistors and for high strength
springs. They can attain strengths up to 900 MN/m2.

Copper and nickel show complete solubility in the solid state and hence from a whole series
of alloys termed "cupro-nickels". These are used for condenser tubes and, with iron, as
thermocouples. Another useful copper-nickel alloy is monel (68% Ni 2% Fe and 30% Cu)
which is used for high temperature applications.

PRACTICE QUESTIONS
4

Describe the effects of alloying on the electrical conductivity and mechanical strength

of copper.

With reference to the relevant part of the Cu-Zn equilibrium diagram, explain what is

meant by and brasses. What are the major properties and applications of each?
3

Give an account of the 4 main bronzes containing elements other than tin, giving their

main properties and uses.

Discuss with reference to the relevant phase diagram, the structure and uses of brasses

for zinc contents varying from 10 to 45%.

Describe the effects of alloying elements on the electrical conductivity, machinability,

formability and mechanical strength of copper.

What alloying elements should be added to the above alloys (alloys of copper and

zinc) to improve their: (i) corrosion resistance (ii) strength (iii) machinability?

Aluminium and copper form two series of commercially useful alloys: one series

being copper rich alloys of aluminium and the other, aluminium rich alloys of copper. Give a
brief but concise account of each group of alloys.

Describe the effects of alloying on the following properties with respect to pure

copper: (i) electrical conductivity

(ii) machinability

(iii) formability

(iv) mechanical

strength (v) corrosion resistance.

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