The wonder metal copper is majorly used in the electrical wiring and cabling industry due to its many amazing features.
This metal’s atomic symbol is Cu and its atomic number is 29. It is a gorgeous reddish-gold metal with a beautiful luster. It has been in use since many centuries now, in several forms. In the modern times, copper is used for many different purposes, from wiring to plumbing.
While in the initial days, copper was used as is – in its natural form, with time came experimentation and copper alloys were born. Its main alloys are bronze and brass, which are widely used in many industries, from coinage to weaponry.
Properties of copper
Let’s take a look at the reasons copper is the most widely used metal for making electrical wires, such as Submersible Winding Wire, Tinsel wire, etc.
- Electrical conductivity – no metal can come even close to copper in terms of this feature. Copper wires can conduct more electrical current per diameter of metal as compared to all metals.
- Thermal tolerance – copper is capable of withstanding high temperature fluctuation. This allows them to be more long-lasting in high-tension electric lines.
- Chemical features – copper has extremely favorable chemical properties which allow it to be resistant to abrasion and other tensions that detract from its durability and longevity. This makes it last much longer in adverse climatic conditions.
- Availability – copper is found abundantly in nature. The present estimates say that copper deposits will not deplete for another five million years at the present rate of extraction. And the best part is that this metal is conducive to recycling. Thus it is ‘green’ metal too.
How copper wires are made
There are copper deposits all over the world, especially in China and Peru. Post extraction from the mines in ore form, copper is melted in giant cauldrons that are heated to super high temperatures, which are created by workers pumping lots of oxygen into the fires. This melted metal is then poured into moulds which are then cooled down to manageable temperatures. However, this process does not rid this metal of its impurities. To do that, all the moulds undergo electrolysis baths. Once that step is over, the metal is pressed into copper sheets.
In case wires have to be created out of these sheets, they undergo another process where the sheet is melted down once again to form a large snake-like shape. This copper snake is pulled over and over again by stretching till it thins down to reach the diameter required.
Various copper wires have different purposes. For example, if for a low voltage application where the maximum possible mechanical flexibility required, the best electrical wire is tinsel wire. The best example of this is in cords that are used for telephone cables. Since tinsel wire is so flexible, it is impervious to metal fatigue.
However, tinsel wire is much more expensive than common stranded copper wire.