How Silicon Is Typically Used in Metals
In the landscape of today’s high-tech world, you’ve likely heard about silicon and its use in microchips for everything from cars to personal computers. Silicon’s primary feature, the one that makes it popular for use in electronics, is its semi-conductivity. This trait makes it more or less conductive, depending on which additional elements are added to the mix.
The Earth’s high quantity of silicon is another boon that may have enticed manufacturers and product designers to start integrating the element. Pure silicon can be found in the Earth’s crust and is the second-most common element behind oxygen. This versatile material has found its way into the composition of various products such as cosmetics, glass, and construction-grade silica sand used in the preparation of cement. Perhaps the most innovative use for silicon, due to its varied effects on source material, is in aluminum and copper metal alloys.
Why Is Silicon Commonly Used in Aluminum and Copper Alloys?
Aluminum and copper are some of the most widely used metals in modern alloys, thanks to their abundance and many possible uses. You typically find copper in electronics or electrical wiring for its high conductivity, while aluminum tends to be leveraged for structural items such as cans, airplane parts, and metal sheets for siding or rooftops. Alone, these elements would have limited use, but adding silicon to the recipe can increase their viability in multiple industries while still remaining affordable.
In copper alloys, silicon adds extra fluidity to the metal, allowing it to flow better into casting molds. Copper alloys with silicon are more workable and have increased heat resistance and durability. This is especially useful for artwork and sculptures created with brass because the addition of silicon helps preserve the piece and protect it against heat, corrosion, and impact.
Silicon Alloys at Belmont Metals
Belmont Metals has a wide range of silicon-copper and silicon-aluminum alloys, with copper alloys being distinguished as either brass or bronze. The addition of silicon lowers the melting point of each of these alloys, and Belmont silicon alloys are a trusted choice for artists, sculptors, metal workers, and manufacturers alike.
The high rate at which bronze was used in everything from jewelry to medieval swords signified the period known as the Bronze Age. A common trait found in even some of the most well-preserved pieces is the brittleness that a traditional bronze alloy possesses due to the low structural integrity of the tin needed to create the alloy.
Today, Belmont bronze alloys with silicon are typically used in sculpture casting. The combination of a lower melting point, added fluidity, and bronze’s natural shrinkage upon cooling creates an antique look with modern strength. Smaller bronze castings are used by jewelry makers looking for an easily worked alloy with an aesthetically pleasing natural hue.
Brass differs from bronze in that it uses copper and zinc to create an alloy, rather than copper and tin. Brass is also noticeably softer than bronze, which is where silicon’s high strength comes in. The addition doesn’t make brass harder than bronze, but it does make it more durable, so it can be worked on without fear of damage.
Belmont silicon brass alloys are used extensively as decorations for their sheen and lower price point compared to golden ornaments and fixtures. Silicon also lowers the conductivity of brass, making it less effective in certain uses where other copper alloys would excel, such as electrical wiring. One of brass’s most prominent uses is in musical instruments, with entire orchestra sections dedicated to the alloy.
You can find brass and bronze alloys with silicon in the following sizes at Belmont:
- 20-pound ingot
- 5-pound ingot
- Shot (polished or unpolished)
- 1/2-inch polished cubes
- 2-inch cut bars
Belmont silicon aluminum takes one of the lightest workable metals and combines it with the strength of silicon. Unlike bronze or brass alloys, aluminum is a pure metal. Unfortunately, unalloyed aluminum is too soft for structural beams and supports. Adding silicon overcomes this weakness while bolstering aluminum’s naturally high resistance to corrosion.
Magnesium is often added to make aluminum alloys even more machinable, by converting the alloy into a heat-treatable material for easier casting and forming. High workability also lets aluminum be used in nearly every industry in the form of containers and construction materials. Heat treatment takes it further by increasing the variations of alloy that can be created.
For silicon aluminum in a size that fits your project, Belmont carries the following forms, depending on grade:
- Cast bars and pieces
- Shot (polished or unpolished)
Best Uses for Alloys With Silicon
Silicon alloy best practices and uses are some of the most varied of any metal alloy offered at Belmont Metals. Parts manufacturers, electronic repair specialists, artists, and musicians can thank alloys with silicon as the source material for their livelihoods. The versatility of silicon in different metal alloys still hasn’t reached its full potential, and Belmont is here to help those with a vision turn their ideas into reality.
No matter the project, Belmont Metals has the alloys needed to deliver long-lasting results, such as 50/50 Silicon Aluminum and Virgin Grade 10% Silicon Copper. If you aren’t sure what type of metal alloy your application calls for, reach out to the Belmont team for a free consultation where you’ll work through the design and end goal to find the right option.