When mixing metals, new materials are created with new properties.  These mixtures are refered to as alloys.  Copper can be combined with many different metals.*  

The most important families of alloys, listed with their main elements are the following:

  • Copper - Zinc: Brass
  • Copper - Tin: Tin bronze
  • Copper - Aluminium
  • Copper - max. 5 % other additional elements: Low alloyed copper
  • Copper - Nickel
  • Copper - Nickel - Zinc: Nickel Silver (German Silver)
  • Copper - Tin - Zinc: Red Brass

 * This classification is only a rough guide. For more information about the alloy families, please visit the individual alloy's site.

Chemical Denominations

CuZn10 has a zinc content of ten percent, making it a copper-brass alloy.  CuSn6, on the other hand, is a copper-tin alloy with six percent tin.  An architectural bronze, or CuZn40Mn2, contains copper as well as 40 parts zinc and two parts manganese.

The same naming convention applies to other alloys.  CuNi10Fe1Mn, a typically sea-water corrosion resistant alloy, contains 10% nickel, 1% iron, and some manganese (despite being less less than 1%, manganese is an important element and therefore listed in the formula).

Only the pure copper grades have their own name such as Cu-DHP (copper for plumbing pipes) or Cu-ETP (copper for power cables), and are not included in this classification.

Customizing Properties through Alloys

When copper is mixed with other elements the resulting alloy displays different properties.  Copper-nickel alloys are extremelly resistant to many types of corrosion and therefore ideal for the maritime industry.  Copper-aluminun alloys are also very corrosion resistant and high-strength, making them perfect for heavy-use parts such as food processing machinery as well as ship hardware (screws, bolts).  In the recent past, new copper based alloys with small additions of other elements have been developed specifically for electronics. These alloys are categorised as low-alloy copper materials.

The diagram below shows the general effects of creating copper-alloys with various elements.  For more detailed information, please visit the specific alloy pages.

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