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Solving The Copper Versus Aluminum Debate Once And For All

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The debate between copper versus aluminum has existed since early man first discovered early man learned to use primitive mining tools and became acquainted with these shiny things. While issues like conductivity were beyond their comprehension during that era, surely having two different materials to choose from got them as confused as we are now. This debate may not be as linear as we think and the answer may be confusing as the question itself especially since each material has distinct properties and would serve certain purposes well.

Voltage Cables
When selecting the right metal for voltage cables, you basically have to consider the disadvantage of each material. Would you rather go for cable with a wider cross-section or would you be more comfortable with a cable that is heavier? If you’re trying to cut costs, cables made out of aluminum are more affordable. But the catch is this, aluminum voltage cables aren’t as ductile as copper ones and are often prone to electrical contact issues.

Stiffness is also something you need to consider. The stiffer a cable is, the more difficult it is to install it. Since stiffness is proportional to the cross-sectional area of a cable, copper voltage cables which have smaller cross-sections are easier to install. In fact, you can only find cable varieties which are labeled as “finely stranded” or “extra finely stranded” with copper voltage cables. Since installation also carries its own costs, the savings you get from using aluminum cables may be offset by the unexpected cost with the intricate installations.

The Winner: Copper

Transformers
Space is not much of an issue with transformers which is why aluminum has a fighting chance in this round. In fact, considerable size is needed in order to provide insulation, localize the short-circuit current, and add a cooling effect. But the catch is this: in order for copper and aluminum transformers to be at par with each other with regards to preventing power losses, the aluminum transformer has to be significantly larger compared to its copper counterpart. But then again, aluminum is much cheaper. But since you won’t be lugging transformers around (so weight shouldn’t be that much a factor), it’s basically a toss-up between the two.

The Winner: Draw

Plating
Oxidation is a problem for both copper and aluminum, and these metals are usually plated with either silver or tin. However, silver and copper are two metals which are corrode easily especially in the presence of hydrogen sulfide. Since hydrogen sulfide is found in almost every manufacturing plant, corrosion is huge problem. Tin on the other hand resists corrosion much better than silver and copper, and is the best choice for plating copper.

Anthony Robert is a writer who shares the best insights about electronics industry. Learn about his site and a Heatsink Manufacturer, .

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