Those acquainted with the properties of metals that can be used for power cables will tell you that there are other alternatives to copper. However, copper remains the number one choice as the main component for industrial power cables, and for good reason. Here’s why the alternatives pale in comparison to copper, and why it remains the industry’s top pick for power cables.
1. It is Thermal-Resistant
Copper has a lower thermal expansion coefficient, so it contracts less when ambient temperatures are low, and expands less as ambient temperatures rise. Cables can also contract or expand as the temperature fluctuates with the current it carries. It is important for a cable material to be less affected by temperature, as this reduces the risk of breakage in the joints of cables and lessens the tendency of the cable to sag or become frayed. Copper wires or cables are also less likely to overheat, melt insulation and surrounding structures, or spark, thereby decreasing the risk of fires. The thermal-resistant quality of copper makes it easier and less costly to maintain, and also serves as a valuable safety measure.
2. It is Extremely Ductile
Copper can be easily formed into very long, thin strands of wire. Its tensile strength is also high, so it can be twisted, bent, spooled, and can take a lot of wear and tear, without breaking. Thus, it is useful across a variety of applications.
3. It is Highly Conductive
The main characteristic that makes copper a popular choice for power cables is its high conductivity.
Copper is the second most conductive metal available, just a notch lower than silver. With high conductivity comes low resistivity or resistance to electrical current.
4. It is Relatively Inexpensive
Thanks to its resistance to expansion or contraction with changes in temperatures, copper is less likely to be damaged and needs less maintenance or repair work. This also means that fires can be avoided, making copper a material with a built-in safety measure that saves money in the long-term. Its highly conductive properties also enable copper to be utilised for cables having a smaller diameter, so less material is needed to transmit heavy electrical loads. Its high ductility likewise makes copper easier to form and shape into the required length and thickness, and it is easier to solder—repairs or upgrades to damaged copper cables take less time and effort. All the favourable qualities of this material translate to more savings per square foot.
5. It Still Performs Better Than its Alternatives
The best alternatives to copper are aluminium, silver, and gold. Silver is the most conductive material available, but its vulnerability to tarnishing does not allow for heavy-duty, industrial applications. It must be noted that for you to fully reap the conductive benefits of silver, it must be pure—a requirement that makes it quite a costly option. Gold is another alternative, but due to its high price and low melting point, it is not a cost-efficient option, either. Of the three possible alternative materials with the highest conductive properties, aluminium is the most practical choice, but it has its drawbacks. Although it’s recommended for use in overhead power cables, aluminium is brittle and tends to break more easily than copper. Its conductivity is lower, so you will need to use thicker aluminium cables to bear the same load that thinner copper cables can handle. Aluminium also corrodes easily, and its conductivity is severely reduced once aluminium oxide forms on the cables. In the case of copper, when corrosion sets in, the layer of copper oxide actually serves as a protective layer that shields the copper from further corrosion, without hampering its conductivity. For your power cables in Singapore, you should still rely on copper cables from a trusted experienced supplier.
In terms of durability, safety, and practicality, copper still wins over the other alternative materials for constructing your power cables.
Did you find this article insightful? You can find more useful information about power and other types of cables here.
At Cable Source, we have a wide selection of cables for industrial, marine, oil and gas, offshore and petrochemical applications. Apart from our diverse range of cables, we offer comprehensive logistical support and after-sales services that your business needs. Contact Cable Source for all of your industrial and shipboard cables in Singapore. Call us for a quote at +65 62682787 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.