Copper has been used for wiring for as long as most of us can remember, we see it in our homes and our vehicles, where it’s been used for decades because of its flexibility, ductility and high conductivity. There are a few metals that are more conductive than copper, but these include silver and gold, so widespread use just isn’t possible. Copper also lasts for a long time, although it does start to corrode when exposed to the elements.
New Metal – Six Reasons why Aluminium is Replacing Copper
The days of copper are numbered, though, especially in the newer vehicles like hybrid cars and in the electrical systems of larger buildings. Aluminium is rapidly replacing copper as it has several advantages over it.
The first and biggest advantage that aluminium has over copper is that it’s a lot lighter. This is especially important in vehicle wiring, where lighter cars mean lower fuel usage. Hybrid car makers want to shed as much excess weight from their cars as possible, and replacing heavy copper wires is one way to do this. Every unnecessary kilo on a car uses more fuel or battery, so the lighter the wiring harness is, the more efficient the car is.
The fact that aluminium is so much lighter than copper has benefits before it’s even installed in a car or a building. It weighs 70 per cent less than copper, which makes it a lot easier and cheaper to transport and faster to install. Builders and contractors appreciate how fast and cheap aluminium components are to move about and use and are using them more and more.
Aluminium is also much cheaper than copper. Once upon a time, copper was the cheapest metal we had, but the increased demand for copper from the emerging nations like China and India, combined with global copper mine depletion, has pushed the price right up. It’s become easier to mine and extract aluminium, as well as to recycle it, so this metal is quite simply a better bet than copper. Aluminium is also unaffected by political events, which can cause sudden upswings in the availability and price of copper. Most of the aluminium in use today has already been recycled once, so we don’t need to worry about it running out any time soon.
One old problem with electrical connections made from aluminium was creep, or the tendency for the connections to lengthen and change shape over time and under high temperatures. Special wedge-shaped aluminium connectors have been developed, so that when creep occurs, the connectors actually end up moving closer and tighter together, ensuring better connectivity than ever. This was one of the last hurdles aluminium needed to overcome to beat copper.
Another complaint about aluminium in electrical systems like Busbars was its oxidisation, as this affects conductivity. However this problem has also been overcome by electro-tin plating conductor bars. This means that builders enjoy the benefits of Busbar trunking systems made from aluminium without the downsides of aluminium reacting with other metals.
Aluminium is non-magnetic, and so it’s ideal for use in technologies and appliances, like sensitive or high-voltage electronic devices, that need the minimum amount of magnetic interference.