There is always a debate about which material is the best option for busbars – aluminum or copper. Both materials can be used in the manufacturing process but which one is better? Most importanly which one is better for your project?
In many cases copper is most often used as the manufacturing material but aluminum also has it’s use cases. Nowadays as the market fluctuates the trends shift every now and then – one day aluminum is preferred and the next copper.
Let´s find out the differences between the materials and help you decide which material is best suited for your use case.
Copper has higher electrical conductivity than aluminum. Depending on the alloy of the aluminum it has roughly 60% the conductivity of copper. As a result, copper busbars are typically smaller and lighter than aluminum busbars for the same current-carrying capacity.
Copper is more resistant to corrosion than aluminum, especially in harsh environments. Aluminum can corrode rapidly when exposed to moisture or certain chemicals, which can reduce its lifespan and increase maintenance requirements.
Weight and size
Aluminum is less dense than copper, so aluminum busbars can be lighter but bigger than copper busbars. The reduced weight of aluminum can help save in other areas of the manufacturing process.
This means that in some cases when size doesn’t matter and weight is the very important aluminum may be the best option. If weight doesn’t matter and there is only a little space, then copper may be the best option for you.
The cost difference between the two materials fluctuates with the markets and changes every day. Generally aluminum is cheaper than copper, so it may be cost effective option for some applications.
Both materials are 100% recyclable. Out of these two materials aluminum takes less energy to recycle than copper so aluminum is a little bit more environmental friendly than copper.
Aluminum has a higher coefficient of thermal expansion than copper, meaning it expands and contracts more with changes in temperature. This can make aluminum busbars more prone to mechanical failure if not properly designed for thermal expansion.
Overall, the choice between copper and aluminum busbars depends heavily on the specific requirements of the electrical system and the application. Typically copper has a higher conductivity, while aluminum is more lightweight and less costly. Factors such as the required current-carrying capacity, environmental conditions, cost considerations, available space and other factors should all be taken into account when selecting a material for busbars.
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