Copper and its Alloys

Brasses

Brass is the generic term for a range of copper-zinc alloys with differing combinations of properties, including strength, machinability, ductility, wear-resistance, hardness, colour, antimicrobial, electrical and thermal conductivity, and corrosion resistance.

Brasses set the standard by which the machinability of other materials is judged and are also available in a very wide variety of product forms and sizes to allow minimum machining to finished dimensions.  Brass does not become brittle at low temperatures like mild steel.

Brass also has excellent thermal conductivity, making it a first choice for heat exchangers (radiators). Its electrical conductivity ranges from 23 to 44% that of pure copper.

Nickel Silvers

These silver coloured copper-nickel-zinc alloys containing 10-20% nickel can be regarded as special brasses.  In most respects they show similar corrosion characteristics to the brasses, but the higher nickel versions have superior tarnish resistance and resistance to stress corrosion cracking.  They are available in all forms and are used for tableware (silver-plated to give EPNS), telecommunication components, food manufacturing equipment, jewellery, model making, tool brush anchor wire and pins, musical instruments, e.g. ‘silver bands’, flutes, test probes and contact springs.

Colours of Brass

Brasses have a range of attractive colours,red, yellow, gold, brown, bronze, silver. Brass with 1% manganese will weather to a chocolate brown colour.  Nickel silvers will polish to a brilliant silver colour. Brasses are easy to shape and, with all these colours available, it is not surprising that architects and designers have used brasses to enhance the appearance of new and refurbished buildings, both inside and out.

Brass and Hygiene

Copper and brass are playing a leading role in the fight against hospital-acquired infections such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile. It has been shown that these pathogens, which can be spread by touch, will die in a few hours on copper/brass surfaces. This does not happen on stainless steel or plastic.

Recycling Brass

The brass industry throughout the world is well organised and equipped to recycle products at the end of their long lives and process scrap (swarf and offcuts). Making brass from new (virgin) copper and zinc would be uneconomical and wasteful of raw materials so new brass products are made from recycled scrap, illustrating the sustainable nature of this material.  In the UK brass manufacturers use almost 100% brass scrap.
Related ResourcesHere are related resources.  To browse and search all resources, visit the Resource Library.
    Pub TN44 - Machining Brass, Copper and Copper Alloys
    £ 0.00
    Design and manufacture
    alloys, brass, coppers, design, Industry, machining, manufacturing
    Detailed advice on machining as a production technique. Guidance on materials selection where good machinability is important. Basic information and guidance for those who know what material is to be machined. Advice on the selection of cutting fluids. 1992. 65pp.
    Pub TN26 - Brasses, Nickel Brass and Nickel Silver - Technical Data
    Design and manufacture
    alloys, brass, Industry, manufacturing, nickel silver, property, sheet , technical
    These data sheets, originally published 1968 - 1972, contain an invaluable summary of data relating to the physical and mechanical properties of the materials at low, ambient and elevated temperatures which is not available elsewhere.
    Pub 206 - Copper Alloys in Marine Environments
    £ 0.00
    Design and manufacture, Marine
    alloys, beryllium, brass, bronze, copper-nickel, corrosion, marine, property, resistance, seawater
    This publication focuses on the properties and corrosion resistance of a wide range of copper alloys used for seawater service - ranging from commercial grades of copper through copper-nickels, bronze,  brass and copper beryllium.  It allows the reader to understand potential types of corrosion mechanisms for the different alloy types and how to avoid them. 2012. 32pp.
    Pub 177 - Brass in Focus
    Design and manufacture
    alloys, brass, design, designer, engineer, products
    Brasses are versatile and cost-effective materials, ideal for designing complex and long lasting components. Article by Ken Kempson in May/June 2004 issue of Engineering Designer. 2004. 4pp.
    Pub 133 - Design in Brass
    Design and manufacture
    alloys, brass, design, designer, products
    Describes briefly the many British Standard wrought and cast brasses available. Gives example case histories of applications and machinability comparisons. 1998. 8pp.
    Pub 120 - Copper and Copper Alloys: Compositions, Applications and Properties
    £ 0.00
    Design and manufacture
    alloys, beryllium, brass, bronze, copper-nickel, coppers, Industry, manufacturing, nickel silver, property, standards
    Tables of BS EN series of standards with ranges of compositions and properties for coppers and copper alloys and equivalent old British Standard materials. Revision of TN10. 2004. 26pp.
    Pub 117 - The Brasses - Properties and Applications
    £ 0.00
    Design and manufacture
    alloys, applications, brass, form, high vacuum, history, Industry, manufacturing, nickel silver, property, standards
    Compositions and properties of standard brasses in wrought and cast condition, together with details of BS and European Standards, forms available, fabrication methods and examples of typical applications. 2005. 64pp.
    Pub 106 - Corrosion Resistance of Copper and Copper Alloys
    Marine
    alloys, brass, bronze, copper-nickel, coppers, corrosion, nickel silver, resistance
    This large table gives information on the suitability of copper and copper alloys with many different chemicals. Data is given for copper, brass, copper-nickel, aluminium bronze and gunmetals at three temperatures and shows if specific materials can be used with chemicals giving an indication of corrosion resistance. 5pp.
    Pub 089 - Architectural Brass
    Architecture
    applications, architecture, brass
    Highlights the durable and decorative qualities of brass when used for both internal and external architectural applications. Well illustrated with examples of modern usage. 12pp.
    IS 36 - Dezincification Resistant Brass
    Pipe systems
    alloys, brass, fittings installation, installation, tube
    In some areas of the UK, the presence of otherwise harmless impurities in the potable water makes it aggressive to duplex brass producing a form of attack known as dezincification. 1982. 4pp.
    Innovation in Aquaculture Cages Using Copper-based Alloys
    Aquaculture, Marine
    alloys, brass, farming, fish farming cages, marine, mesh , net
    This presentation gives an overview of the use of copper alloys in aquaculture, covering the unique combination of properties and introducing ongoing trials around the world that are investigating its benefits to fish health.
    DKI i.18 Recommended Machining Parameters for Copper and Copper Alloys
    Industrial, Design and manufacture
    alloys, brass, coppers, machining
    This update by DKI aims to address the concerns of practitioners, helping them to find the most effective and economical solutions to their metal cutting problems. It also assists designers and development engineers when comparing the machinability of different materials, making it easier to estimate the fabrication costs of a particular part. Tables have been brought up to date to reflect the most recent materials standards. 2010. 64pp.
Brasses: Properties and Applications (Publication 117)

Contact an Expert

Access our pool of subject matter experts from around the world.
Brass swarf for recycling
Examples of brass products
Brass handrail
FAQs
By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. Find out more by following this link. Accept