Most builders know that beryllium copper is valuable due to its price point, but what makes it worthy of the higher costs, and what is the difference between copper and beryllium copper?
We’ll break down the unique characteristics and properties of beryllium copper that make it such a versatile, valuable metal.
Related: Ferrous vs. Non-Ferrous Metals
Beryllium Copper Properties
Also referred to as BeCu, spring copper, and beryllium bronze, beryllium copper is an alloy that typically contains between 0.4 to 2% beryllium.
As a copper-based alloy with one of the highest strengths, beryllium copper has applications across many industries. Manufacturers also use various grades of beryllium copper that have non-magnetic and high conductivity properties.
Beryllium Copper Strength
Many companies use beryllium copper in cryogenic equipment because it will keep its strength even at extremely low temperatures.
Beryllium copper comes in two different classes: high-strength and high-conductivity. The high-strength variety is the strongest of any copper alloy and has a tensile strength exceeding 200,000 PSI while still maintaining adequate conductivity.
Beryllium Copper Thermal Conductivity
Beryllium copper efficiently transmits electricity and heat, which is why it’s commonly used in computer components, telecommunication products, and electronic connectors. High-conductivity beryllium copper offers better conductivity than the high-strength variety, but it still has a tensile strength of around 120,000 PSI.
The Hardness of Beryllium Copper
Beryllium copper’s hardness versatility is one of its most significant characteristics. You can soften or harden the alloy as needed by applying various heat treatment processes. When heated in a certain way, it can become the strongest, hardest metal of its alloy counterparts. It can achieve a level of hardness that rivals high-grade steel while retaining its conductivity and corrosion resistance.
Corrosion Resistance of Beryllium Copper
Even when you compare beryllium copper to other specialty alloys, it ranks among the highest for corrosion resistance. Since it’s naturally resistant to corrosion, people use beryllium copper to create components and products that experience lots of wear and tear. This includes items like wire, oil and gas equipment, powertrain components, electronic springs and connectors, and even undersea telecom components.
Does beryllium copper tarnish? No, which is one of the biggest reasons why beryllium copper is sought after by manufacturers of electronic components.
Beryllium Copper Machinability
Yes, beryllium copper is machinable—it can be formed, metal-worked, and machined with relative ease because it has moderate hardness levels. After processing, you can treat beryllium copper to achieve the desired hardness, and it retains its shape after the treatment.
Applications of Beryllium Copper
What is beryllium copper used for? Various industries use beryllium copper due to its unique properties. For example, because of its non-sparking characteristics, beryllium copper is highly suitable for applications in the gas and oil industry, like for mining tools and oil rig components.
Other industrial applications of beryllium copper include:
- Electronics and computer components
- Non-sparking tool fabrication
- Telecommunication products
- Cryogenics and valve seats
- Injection mold design
- Musical instruments like percussions and strings
Looking for the best materials for your next project? Get in touch with South Austin Metals—Your South Austin fabricator, welder, and supplier!
Related: Types of Metal and Their Uses