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Alloys are Generally Used in Electrical Wires and Cables

In general, wiring in our home and devices are pure or at least 99.9% pure copper due to difficulties of purification. Phone chargers, or microphones are also use copper. You will however feel a difference in the physical properties of the cables due to the type of insulation, and how stranded the copper is.

pure copper wire.jpg

Apart from copper alloy, many different alloys used in electrical conductors. Here are some examples:

Nickel-chrome (nichrome) wire, like tungsten, can survive high temperatures, and the higher resistance is desirable. Being cheaper than tungsten, is used in heater wires, where the wire doesn't need to get white-hot.


Cryogenic wire is often phosphor bronze (copper, tin, phosphorus), where the resistance of this alloy doesn't change much at very low temperatures.

Solder, which is an alloy of tin and lead, or other mixes of metals in the case of lead-free solder, is used for bonding electrical components to copper pads on PCBs. The low melting temperature of tin-lead makes it suitable for this task.

Gold is a worse conductor than copper and silver, but resists oxidation much better. As a result gold is used to plate connectors. Gold wire is also used in chips to bond the interconnects between the silicon and the chip package. Gold is used as it resists oxidation when bonding. Copper can also be used, but would need to be done in an inert atmosphere like nitrogen.

Silver has a higher conductivity than copper, it is ultilized in sensitive scientific instruments, cryogenics, electrical contacts in switches.

silver and gold.png

Aluminium conducts less well compared with copper - for a given size of cable copper will conduct better; but because aluminium actually has a better weight-to-conductivity ratio, aluminium wire with the same conductivity as copper wire would be physically thicker, but would still work out to be lighter, and probably cheaper too. Due to this, many overhead power lines are made of aluminium - the lower weight is a benefit, and physical size isn't an issue. Some aircraft wiring is made of aluminium to save weight; as are some motor windings where weight is important.


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TAG:   pure copper copper alloy copper wire Nickel-chrome wire

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