In the complex world of 21st century electronics, it’s a fascinating fact that of the most important materials in the industry is one of the most basic and natural chemical elements known to humankind, found mainly in volcanic rocks. It’s name: copper. Why’s it so foundational to the electronics industry? Yes, its soft and pliable nature makes it particularly easy to work with, but the real kicker is copper’s very high levels of intrinsic electromagnetic properties, and incredibly efficient thermal and electrical conductivity. The only metals that really compare in terms of electrical conductivity are the extremely expensive gold and silver, with the more affordable aluminium proving significantly less efficient and reliable for complex electronics. So it’s no surprise that industries, businesses and other organisations still so often rely on copper wire for:
* Power generation, transmission & distribution
* Countless electrical devices
* Electrical contacts
* Electrical wiring.
In fact, there’s barely an electrical installation anywhere on earth that doesn’t feature copper wire somewhere in the recipe, and it’s still the go-to option for maintaining, repairing and replacing faulty electrical circuits and lines.
1: The conductivity
As outlined above, when everything is factored in, copper wire is still the obvious choice for electrical lines, with its superior conductive properties meaning seamless transmission with almost no resistance whatsoever. For use in circuits, transmission lines, but also in vehicles, plant machinery and industrial transformers, bare, affordable copper wire is all that is needed.
- The magnetic properties
Alongside conductivity, the next headline benefit of copper wire is its outstanding magnetic performance. Unlike the purely magnetic metals, however, copper is top of the list of metals for ‘paramagnetic’ and ‘diamagnetic’ qualities – meaning it’s actually only weakly attracted to magnetic poles. Copper wire is, however, attracted to external magnetic fields, while its diamagnetic properties means material is repulsed from those external magnetic field. In practice, copper wire is still the product or choice for many compasses, navigational, aerospace and radio systems.
- The durability
In a nutshell, there’s basically no component of any electrical network offering a greater balance between efficiency and durability than bare copper. In wire form, it means circuits and components last longer and are incredibly resistant to the effects of wear and impact, making copper wire perfect for devices, machines and equipment needing to move quickly and withstand shocks and vibration. Copper wire is also better suited when corrosion and exposure to chemicals, moisture and contaminants is a factor.
- The ductility
We referred earlier to the soft, pliable nature of copper – which in the language of material properties means its ductility. For electrical wiring, copper’s combination of conductivity and ductility makes it particularly powerful, as it can keep performing perfectly in extreme states of plastic deformation. Other metals are more prone to fracturing under these conditions, making copper wire the perfect choice for very small devices and equipment that requiring very thin wiring with no diminishment of electrical performance.
- The alloy potential
What can sometimes be even better than bare copper wire? How about alloy copper wire, like those alloyed with zinc, nickel and tin with the result of superior electrical and anti-corrosive properties for specific and diverse applications and conditions.
So whether it’s for power cables, appliances, devices, equipment or electrical circuits and wires, inexpensive copper in its familiar reddish-brown and atomic number 29 is not just central to businesses in the electric-related industries and businesses, but to modern life itself.