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Benefits of Adding Phosphor to Copper Alloys

Copper’s immense popularity in products made around the world requires manufacturers to develop this alloy in high quantities to meet rising demand. However, copper by itself is often not suitable for products when it is melted and cast into shape.

Its soft properties require strengthening yet also elasticity so it does not become brittle. In addition, copper needs to be deoxidized to prevent pores and voids in its structure. To add a range of benefits to copper to enhance its characteristics and mechanical structure, phosphor will be added during the melt.

What is Phosphor?

Phosphorus is a chemical element that has deoxidization properties. When copper is melted, oxygen and other gases from the environment and within the processes will get into the molten metal. These gases can make the metal too porous to be worked or will develop cracks when used for certain applications. Phosphorous helps to remove the oxygen and other gases from copper during the melt as it increases the copper’s strength. It also causes little reaction and or dross formation.

As phosphor is added into molten copper, it forms phosphorus pentoxide that results when the phosphor gathers in the oxygen in the copper. This phosphorous pentoxide is then removed when the copper undergoes the refining process. The remaining phosphor ends up in the solution with the copper. Copper alloys that can be made with phosphor include phosphor copper, and phosphor bronzes.

Additional Benefits of Phosphor Copper

In addition to providing deoxidizing properties, phosphor also provides a range of other benefits. Copper by itself has amazing corrosion resistance, as this property becomes enhanced due to the added phosphor. It also improves tensile strength, removes brittleness characteristics, and improves machinability and workability.

Small amounts of phosphor will not impact the natural electrical and thermal conductivity in copper. Yet keep in mind that the more phosphor that is added, the more that the copper conductivity will become depressed. For example, phosphorous deoxidized copper will basically have a copper content of 99.9%. However, this same copper will have a conductivity of only 85% IACS. Certain phosphor bronzes may only have a conductivity ranging between 25% to 50% IACS.

Consider the type of application that the copper will be used in and the level of desired conductivity to determine the amount of phosphor that will be necessary. In some cases, the sacrifice in conductivity but the improvement of the copper’s corrosion and strength will be a positive result.

When obtaining phosphor copper or phosphor bronze, figuring out the amount of phosphor to be added can be a difficult process. Working with a company such as Belmont Metals can allow you to get customized alloys for your manufacturing processes in the desired formulas, shapes and sizes.