Electrical cables and wires have conductors at the center. The conductor is a crucial element in a wire as it transmits electric currents. Conductors are mostly metallic since metallic substances have high conductivity. However, different conductors have varying resistivity levels, which differentiate the most efficient conductor from the rest depending on the application. So, some metals like copper have more conductivity levels compared to the rest. In most electrical applications, copper, aluminum, and high-strength alloys comprise the common conductor materials for wire and cable.
How to determine good conductor materials for cables
What do we mean by a conductor material for cables? This is a material with high electrical conductivity. A material that allows electric current to flow through it from one end to another easily. So, within normal conditions, an electrical conductor needs to exhibit some properties like;
- Availability of free electrons
- Movement of electrons with little or no resistance, i.e., low resistivity levels
- Have a zero charge density
- The material should have no electric field difference
- The electrons on the material’s surface can freely carry current when applied
Common Conductor Materials for Wire and Cable
Copper is the most common type of conductor material for wire and cable used for electrical applications. Since the 1820s, copper has been used for generating, distributing, and transmitting electric power. Copper’s conductivity comes second after silver but is more common than silver due to its economic viability and ease of acquisition.
The properties of copper make it a good conductor material
- Low resistivity- Copper has a resistivity of 8nΩ∙m. This makes copper have the highest conductivity level compared to other non-precious metals.
- Low comparable cost- Copper is an easily accessible metal, making its prices relatively lower than other better conductors like silver. Cable and wire manufacturers, as well as users, generally accept and prefer the use of copper since it is budget-friendly.
- Easy to solder and join- It’s easy to join copper by soldering and has low reactions with other materials.
Aluminum has 61% conductivity that of copper. Aluminum is used to make cables to distribute power in several commercial and industrial feeders, for example, in electrical wiring for appliances, aircraft, and buildings.
Properties make aluminum a common material used as an electric conductor.
- Aluminum is the least expensive metal, making it easily accessible and affordable for electric applications.
- Aluminum has high electrical conductivity, enough for electrical application.
- A low resistivity rating of 82 X 10-8 Ω-m- Indicates that aluminum is a good conductor of electricity.
Other conductor materials include;
- Silver is a better electrical conductor than copper.
- It has a low resistivity of 1.59×10−8 Ω-m, meaning it has a significant conductivity level.
- Its high cost makes cable manufacturers not use it often, especially for large projects.
High strength alloys
- The alloys comprise copper-covered steel wires.
- Offer great flex life and high breaking strength.
- The most frequently used alloys are; zirconium copper, cadmium copper, chromium copper, and cadmium-chromium copper.
- The alloys are applicable in making computer wires and cables as well as aerospace cables.
Good conductor materials are used to make cables and wires for electric and electronic applications. Every manufacturer and user will go for the most convenient material. In most applications, copper is considered the best due to its low resistivity, high conductivity levels, accessibility, and low cost. However, it’s significant to be conversant with your cable application before purchasing one. Not all applications will use copper-made cables due to extremely high temperatures. In case of any help, consider consulting with us at any time.