At times, choosing between copper and brass can be a difficult decision to make.
The best part, this guide explores everything about brass vs copper. Actually, this will make it easy for you to choose the best metal for your specific applications.
What is Copper?
Copper is a reddish-brown naturally occurring metal and is thus found in the periodic table. The existence of this metal in its pure form enables direct processing.
What is Brass?
Brass is an artificially manufactured metal with copper and zinc as its primary components. Its color ranges from yellow-gold, reddish-gold or silver depending on the components. The yellow-gold brass is oftentimes confused with real gold.
Chemical Composition of Brass Vs Copper
Copper is a pure metal with an electron structure similar to that of silver and gold. On the other hand, brass is an alloy of copper, and zinc, alongside other elements.
Depending on the brass alloy grade, other elements may exist in different percentages such as:
- Sulfur, etc.
Applications of Copper Vs Brass
Both brass and copper play an integral role in modern applications. Take for example:
- Used as an antimicrobial and anti-biofouling
- Can be used in electrical wiring, power generation and transmission.
- Copper plays a pivotal role in manufacturing electric motors, electronics components, conductors, etc.
- Used in architecture to make gutters, bathroom fixtures, handrails, vaults, doors, flashings, roofs, downspouts among many others.
- You can use brass to decorate parts
- Red brass is used to make jewelry, door handles, badges, and marine hardware
- C-360 brass is used to manufacture injectors, bolts, nuts, taps, pipes and water fittings
- C35600/C37000 brass is used in the manufacture of clocks, builder hardware and gear meters
- C26000/C26130 brass is used in the production of locks, heat exchangers, catridge castings, radiator cores, tanks, electrical terminals, plugs and lamp fittings.
Brass vs Copper: Corrosion Resistance
Both brass and copper are resistant to rust. However, the constituent components of brass are also highly resistant to corrosion. In most cases, brass and copper alloys do not contain iron.
Electrical Conductivity of Brass Compared to Copper
Copper has excellent electrical conductor. This basically means that it offers zero resistance to the flow of electric current.
On the other hand, brass conductivity is about 28% that of copper.
Brass vs Copper: Melting Point
You will require about 1084 degrees Celsius to melt most copper alloys. On the other hand, at about 900 to 940 degrees Celsius, you can melt most brass alloys.
Of course the melting point varies depending on the alloy type and impurities.
Thermal Conductivity of Brass Compared Copper
Copper is a good thermal conductor. The best part, the thermal conductivity is constant.
On the other, brass had good thermal conductivity. However, the thermal conductivity varies. It is thus safe to conclude that copper is a better thermal conductor than brass.
Copper Vs. Brass: Existing Alloy Grades
Availability of copper and brass in different grades make them more versatile. The grades are as discussed below:
- Pure copper-is usually very soft and ductile. Other elements can be added to this grade of copper to increase its stiffness.
- Oxygen free copper/Alloy 101- known for high thermal conductivity and ductility.
- Electrolytic (ETP) copper/Alloy 110– the grade is malleable, good electrical conductor and thermal properties.
- Free-machining copper/Alloy 145-This one has its machinability increased by addition of sulfur and telluride.
- Red brass/copper alloy C23000
- Alloy 260/cartridge brass-excellent cold working properties a reason it makes perfect material for ammunition fabrication
- Alloy 272/yellow brass- applied mostly in architecture and industries.
- Alloy 330-is preferred in the production of pipes due to the small amount of lead in them.
- Alloy 353/clock brass-this brass alloy is easy to machine. As a result, you can use it to make small parts such as watch parts.
- Alloy 360/free cutting brass
- Alloy 464-is highly resistant to corrosion
Brass Hardness Vs. Copper Hardness
The hardness of a material refers to its ability to resist deformation. Generally, brass tend to be stiffer and harder than copper alloys.
Weight of Brass Vs Weight of Copper
Copper has a higher density than brass. Therefore, it is safe to say that copper is heavier than brass.
On average, the brass density may vary from 8400 to 8730kg/cu.m). Even with this, it does not exceed copper density which is (8930kg/cu.m).
Machining Brass Vs Machining Copper
Brass has a higher machinability than copper. Therefore, you can easily machine brass by milling, turning, drilling, etc.
Ease of Forming Brass vs. Copper
Both copper and brass can easily undergo forming processes such as coining, stretching and bending. Generally, brass is less flexible, hence you may experience many challenges during forming process.
Mechanical Strength of Brass Vs Copper
Mechanical strength of a metal mainly refers to its yield strength, tensile strength and shear strength. The table below shows how brass and copper compare in mechanical strength.
|Type of Mechanical Strength||Brass||Copper|
|Ultimate Tensile Strength||18000-150000psi||30500psi|
Welding Properties of Copper vs. Brass
Copper has better weldability than brass. However, the weldability of brass decreases with increase in zinc content in the alloy. Brass alloys containing lead are unweldable.
Anti-Bacterial Property: Copper Vs. Brass
Copper is known to release ions that kill single-celled micro-organisms. It is for this reason that copper is oftentimes used for filtration purposes. Brass also possesses this property.
Anti-biofouling property: Copper Vs. Brass
Brass is capable of eliminating no only micro-organisms but also multi-cellular organisms like marine animals. Anti-biofouling process helps to maintain buoyancy of water vessels such as ships.
In addition to that, anti-biofouling helps to minimize transpotation of undesired marine species from one place to another.
Weight: Brass Vs. Copper
Copper has higher density(8930kg/cu.m) than brass(8400-8730kg/cu.m). The denser the material the heavier it is. Copper is thus heavier than brass.
Magnetic Properties of Brass Vs Copper
Copper and brass are non-ferrous hence non-magnetic materials. However, If brass has traces of iron, it can be attracted by strong magnet.
Is Copper Cheaper than Brass?
Brass is cheaper than copper.
Between Brass and Copper; Which Metal is Durable?
Durability is the ability of a material to stay and function properly for a long time even when subjected to unfavorable conditions. The durability of a metal is largely dependent on two very crucial factors; their resistance to corrosion and physical hardness.
- Resistance to corrosion
Unlike other metals, copper does not rust when exposed to oxygen. Its protective layer (“patina”) will prevent further damage on the metal. Similarly, brass possess excellent corrosion resistance properties.
However, there are some elements that can make brass to rust or corrode.
Brass, due to its stiffness, can easily crack. Copper on the other hand is quite flexible and does not crack easily.
Having looked at the above factors, it is safe to conclude that copper has higher durability than brass.
What are the Disadvantages of Brass?
- It tarnishes with time thus products made of brass may appear dull over time.
- Brass contains nickel which can cause allergies to some people.
- Brass contains lead which can cause health problems when it leaches and hence consumed in water and/or other drinks.
- Compared to steel or aluminum, brass is costlier
- It is susceptible to corrosion if not well maintained.
How do you Know If Brass or Copper is Good for your Project?
It is simple; you will need to figure out your project requirements and the desired outcome. Factors such as durability, hardness, machinability, formability and weldability should help you select the most suitable metal for your project. Both metals are valuable in their own right
What are the Disadvantages of Copper?
- Fire and shock hazard- copper cables may pose a huge risk to the user as it can cause fire and shock if not handled well.
- Copper is expensive compared to other metals.
- Over time, copper forms greenish patina on its surface
Does Brass Rust or Tarnish?
Brass has copper and zinc as its primary components. The said metals are highly resistant to corrosion. Brass thus does not rust or tarnish unless it has traces of other elements such as iron that corrode when exposed to oxygen.
From this information, you can decide whether brass or copper is good for your specific applications or not.
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Bronze vs. Brass – Source: KDM
Brass – Source: Wikipedia
Brass Fabrication – Source: KDM
Copper – Source: Science Direct
Copper Fabrication – Source: KDM