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copper and aluminum alloys are ubiquitous in our modern world. They have transformed the way we build, move and communicate. Almost any industry imaginable makes use of pure copper, brass (copper zinc alloys) and bronzes (copper tin alloys). It is also essential for many engineered components, such as heat sinks. Its combination of good strength and thermal conductivity makes it ideal for a variety of applications. Its corrosion resistance makes it an excellent choice for piping and chemical tanks.
Alloys of copper and aluminum are generally cold rolled, cast, or hot wrought. In general, copper adds strength to aluminum alloys while silicon and iron reduce the susceptibility of the alloys to stress-corrosion cracking.
The addition of copper to aluminum decreases the ductility of the alloy, but it increases its strength and facilitates precipitation hardening, a process in which atoms of the two metals form intermetallic compounds. The specific ratio of the compound, which always contains two aluminum atoms for every one copper atom, is determined by temperature and time, and gives the alloys its characteristic chemical formula. Other intermetallics are possible, but their formation is less common.
Commercial alloys of copper and aluminum typically consist of 2-12% copper with small amounts of other elements. The alloys are generally cold rolled, and their mechanical properties are well characterized. Their tensile and compressive strengths are higher than those of pure aluminum, and they exhibit very good fatigue resistance. They are also weldable. However, they are more susceptible to stress-corrosion cracking in comparison with other aluminum alloys, and require special heat treatments to minimize this susceptibility.