An overview of copper alloys

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

The copper alloy tree

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

Pure copper has the best electrical and thermal conductivity of any commercial metal. Copper forms alloys more freely than most metals and with a wide range of alloying elements to produce the following alloys. Click on the boxes below to read more.

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, electrical and thermal conductivity, and corrosion-resistance.

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.

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

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.

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.

Copper beryllium 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.

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.


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