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Aluminum bronze coin. Image Credit: Shutterstock.com/Runglawan Khrutjaikla

Aluminum Bronze: Definition, Composition, Types, Properties, and Applications

Xomety X
By Team Xometry
January 10, 2024
 13 min read
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Aluminum bronze is an alloy containing anywhere from 92% copper, 4-14% aluminum, and other alloying elements such as silicon, nickel, iron, or manganese. These ingredients provide a range of mechanical qualities. Bronzes made with aluminum have good mechanical strength and corrosion resistance, making them useful in a variety of sectors. 

Their versatility meets the needs of both aeronautical and marine components used in harsh conditions. Aluminum bronzes with higher aluminum and alloy concentrations are harder. Their hardness is further improved by applying cold working stress, which increases their adaptability to a wide range of industrial and engineering applications.

This article will discuss what aluminum bronze is: its composition, types, properties, and applications.

What Is Aluminum Bronze?

Aluminum bronze is a copper-based alloy with an aluminum content ranging from 4 to 14%, with minor additions of elements such as iron, nickel, or manganese. The aluminum both strengthens the copper matrix and gives it better corrosion resistance by forming an adherent aluminum oxide layer on the surface. Additions of iron and nickel further strengthen aluminum bronze, and the nickel provides additional corrosion resistance.  Aluminum bronzes in the higher range of aluminum content can rival the strength of medium-carbon steel while being more corrosion-resistant.

What Is the History of Aluminum Bronze?

Metallurgists first experimented with the combination of copper and aluminum in the mid-1800s, but their efforts were impeded by the high expense of manufacture. To produce aluminum bronze billets, Durville improved the tilting ladle method in 1913 by resolving problems with oxide inclusion and shrinkage. Later, Charles H. Meigh improved upon this technique by working with the French Admiralty to create nickel-aluminum bronze. Despite the attractive qualities of aluminum bronze, user resistance, and casting difficulties initially impeded the material's commercial expansion. Aluminum bronze became widely used after World War II as a result of the expanding offshore oil sector, the growing need for propellers in larger and faster ships, and the necessity for a strong, corrosion-resistant alloy in submarine construction.

What Is the Other Term for Aluminum Bronze?

Aluminum bronze is also known as "aluminum gold" or "gold bronze." Known for its light gold hue, this alloy has good casting qualities but is difficult to forge. Because of its distinct set of qualities, aluminum bronze — which includes strength and resistance to corrosion — finds use in a wide range of sectors, making it a viable material for certain engineering applications.

Is Aluminum Bronze the Same as Brass?

No, aluminum bronze is not the same as brass. While both are copper alloys, aluminum bronze contains copper, aluminum, tin, iron, and nickel. It is known for its corrosion resistance, strength, and color. In contrast, brass uses zinc instead of tin or aluminum as its major alloying element with copper. Brass typically has a tensile strength of 200 to 500 MPa, while aluminum bronze boasts a higher tensile strength of 780 MPa, making it a stronger and more resilient alloy in comparison.

What Is Aluminum Bronze Made Of?

Aluminum bronze is a copper-based alloy that has different proportions of aluminum, iron, silicon, nickel, and/or manganese added as alloying elements. Table 1 outlines the range of aluminum bronze alloys, specifying the percentage content of key elements in each type:

Table 1: Aluminum Bronze Alloy Composition
Alloy TypeComposition (%)
Alloy Type
C62300 Aluminum Bronze
Composition (%)
Cu - 82.2-89.5, Al - 8.5-11.0, Fe - 2.0-4.0, Mn - <=0.6, Sn - <=0.5, Si - <=0.25, Other - <=0.5
Alloy Type
C63000 Aluminum Bronze
Composition (%)
Cu - 82, Al - 10, Ni - 5, Fe - 3
Alloy Type
C63200 Aluminum Bronze
Composition (%)
Cu - 82, Fe - 4, Al - 9, Ni - 5
Alloy Type
64200 Aluminum Silicone Bronze
Composition (%)
Cu - 91.2, Al - 7.0

How Are Aluminum Bronzes Made?

A clean, well-ventilated area with a crucible or forge is needed to create aluminum bronze. Wear safety gear and warn people to keep away to ensure your safety. Aluminum and copper should be weighed in a 9:1 ratio before being put in an industrial-grade crucible. Melt the metals at 1,038 °C and stir until they are well combined, using a graphite rod. A blowtorch can be used for small-scale forging. After pouring the molten mixture into a mold and letting it firm for 20 minutes, remove the cooled bronze with caution. To finish the classic bronze casting process and obtain a shiny aluminum bronze product, immerse it in water to quench it.

What Are the Characteristics of Aluminum Bronze?

Some characteristics of aluminum bronze include:

  1. Wear Resistance: It has good wear resistance, making it ideal for applications with long design lives in abrasive environments.
  2. Non-Sparking: Due to its non-sparking nature, aluminum bronzes are essential in the production of tools for the chemical and petroleum industries, mine maintenance, handling explosives, and gas equipment.
  3. Corrosion Resistance: Because of their exceptional corrosion resistance, aluminum bronzes are perfect for use in chemical, atmospheric, and marine applications. This resistance is a result of the protective layer of aluminum oxide coating forming quickly. Oxide films can mend themselves almost instantly, even in the event of damage, scratches, or abrades.
  4. Cold Working Capability: Aluminum bronzes with less than 8-10% aluminum content exhibit exceptional cold working capabilities, allowing for versatile shaping into tube sheets, flats, wires, and other modified configurations.
  5. Hot Working Capability: In aluminum bronzes, alloys containing 8–10% aluminum show gradually increasing mechanical strength and hardness, requiring hot working procedures. These alloys are appropriate for applications involving high temperatures during shaping and forming processes since their ideal hot working temperatures fall between 1300 °F and higher.

What Is the Color of Aluminum Bronze?

The particular alloy within the family determines the color of aluminum bronze. Aluminum bronzes typically display a spectrum of warm, coppery tones, often veering toward a golden tint. The alloy's composition, which varies in copper, aluminum, and other alloying elements, affects the particular tint. Figure 1 shows the different shades of aluminum bronze:

shades of aluminum bronze

Different shades of aluminum bronze.

Image Credit: https://www.act-surfaces.co.uk/improving-patient-safety-and-reducing-clinical-costs/

Aluminum bronzes are visually pleasing due to their color diversity, and their varied tones also indicate their special qualities and use within the larger family of alloys based on copper.

What Does Aluminum Bronze Look Like?

Aluminum bronze presents varying shades, predominantly warm and coppery, often verging on a golden tint. Its aesthetic is further enhanced when polished to achieve an attractive, highly reflective metallic finish, contributing to its overall visual appeal. Figure 3 is an example of an aluminum bronze item:

aluminum bronze coin

Coin made of aluminum bronze.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com/CL Shebley

What Are the Different Types of Aluminum Bronzes?

The different types of aluminum bronzes are listed below: 

  1. High Alloyed, Two-Phase Aluminum Bronzes: Containing 8-11% aluminum, these alloys, often with added iron or nickel, offer enhanced strength, making them suitable for hot casting. Alloys with 10% or more aluminum excel in specialized applications requiring high strength, hardness, and wear resistance. Iron boosts tensile strength, while nickel improves corrosion resistance.
  2. Low Nickel Aluminum Bronze: This variant, with lower strength and less than 8% aluminum, excels in die casting due to a lower melting temperature, enhancing energy efficiency. Its non-sparking properties and ease of die-cast tool production make it valuable in the tooling industry. Ideal for cold working, it maintains ductility in both hot and cold conditions.
  3. Silicon-Aluminum Bronzes: With up to 2% silicon and 6% aluminum, these bronzes are strong, ductile, shock-resistant, and have low magnetic susceptibility. Known as aluminum-silicon bronzes, they are stronger and easier to hot work and cast.
  4. Manganese-Aluminum Bronzes: Developed for propeller manufacture, these alloys (8-9% aluminum, 13% manganese) offer good castability, resistance to impingement, cavitation, and low magnetic permeability post-heat treatment

What Are the Properties of Aluminum Bronze?

Table 2 highlights the properties of aluminum bronze:

Table 2: Properties of Aluminum Bronze
PropertyDescription
Property
Strength
Description
Possesses high tensile strength compared to low-alloy steel
Property
Machinability
Description
Poses challenges in machining due to high strength, abrasiveness, thermal conductivity, copper content, and poor chip formation, affecting tool durability.
Property
Weldability
Description
Usually requires no preheating, except for thick sections. Thorough cleaning before and after each pass prevents porosity. These alloys are valuable as weld-depositing surfacing materials for wear, corrosion, and sparking resistance.
Property
Corrosion Resistance
Description
Resists corrosion in various environments, particularly in seawater and under acidic conditions.
Property
Color
Description
Typically has a distinctive golden color, offering aesthetic appeal in various applications.
Property
Antimicrobial
Description
Depending on the specific composition, some aluminum bronzes may exhibit biocompatibility, making them suitable for certain medical applications such as dental alloy.

What Are the Chemical Properties of Aluminum Bronze?

Table 3 highlights the chemical properties of aluminum bronze:

Table 3: Chemical Properties of Aluminum Bronze
Chemical PropertyDescription
Chemical Property
Composition
Description
Contains 4-14% aluminum by weight, with the remainder being copper, along with small quantities of iron, nickel, manganese, silicon, and zinc.
Chemical Property
Oxidation Resistance
Description
Experiences low rates of oxidation even at elevated temperatures.
Chemical Property
Corrosion Resistance
Description
The corrosion resistance is attributed to the formation of a thin, tough surface layer of alumina (aluminum oxide), acting as a barrier to corrosion.

What Are the Physical Properties of Aluminum Bronze?

Table 4 highlights the physical properties of aluminum bronze:

Table 4: Physical Properties of Aluminum Bronze
Physical PropertyDescription
Physical Property
Young's Modulus
Description
110 GPa
Physical Property
Density
Description
7.45 g/cm³ at 20 °C
Physical Property
Melting Point (solidus)
Description
1030 °C
Physical Property
Thermal Conductivity
Description
59 W/mK
Physical Property
Brinell Hardness
Description
170-177 BHN
Physical Property
Ultimate Tensile Strength
Description
550-900 MPa

Is It a Good Idea To Cut Aluminum Bronze Using a Laser Cutter?

Yes, a laser cutter is a good way to cut aluminum bronze. Before laser cutting, metals — especially those that reflect a lot — might require an anti-reflective coating. CO2 lasers might not be the best option; fiber lasers often provide superior outcomes. The process provides precision, minimal material loss, and limited thermal stress, ensuring a clean and efficient cut.

To learn more, see our article on Laser Cutting.

Is Welding Possible with Aluminum Bronze?

Yes, it is possible to weld aluminum bronze. MIG welding, utilizing an aluminum bronze core wire and pure argon gas, is a suitable technique. This method ensures a strong bond and maintains the alloy's properties such as high strength.

What Are the Applications of Aluminum Bronze?

Aluminum bronze, an alloy of copper, aluminum, and other elements, has a combination of properties that make it useful for a large range of applications. Some of its most common uses are listed below:

1. Guitar Strings

Guitar strings made of aluminum bronze are strong, have bright tones, and are resistant to corrosion over time. This combination of properties adds to the quality of a musical performance, making aluminum bronze a popular choice for strings.

2. Engine Components

Aluminum bronze offers excellent strength, resistance to wear, and effective heat dissipation, all key features for long-lasting engine components. Aluminum bronze is used in automotive piston pins due to its high strength and wear resistance. These properties help withstand the repetitive stress and friction in the engine, ensuring durability and longevity in such critical components.

3. Marine Hardware

Aluminum bronze makes dependable hardware for maritime applications because it resists corrosion from saltwater. It is a favored option for a variety of marine components due to its durability and dependability.

4. Aircraft Components

With its combination of strength, resistance to corrosion, and heat stability, aluminum bronze holds a prominent position in the manufacture of aircraft components. Aluminum bronze is used in aviation components such as bushings and bearings. For these applications, its great strength and resistance to corrosion are essential, offering dependable support in important parts where tough environmental conditions, longevity, and low maintenance requirements are crucial.

5. Nonoxidizing Acids

Designed for environments with nonoxidizing acids, aluminum bronze resists corrosion, maintaining structural integrity in acidic conditions. Aluminum bronze finds application in chemical processing equipment handling nonoxidizing acids, like hydrochloric acid. Its corrosion resistance surpasses that of many materials, ensuring prolonged equipment life in aggressive acidic environments, where standard alloys might succumb to corrosion.

6. Valve Components

Actuated Butterfly Valves made of aluminum bronze offer clear benefits in corrosive conditions. Longer service life is largely dependent on their superior corrosion resistance, especially in the chemical processing, offshore, and maritime industries. These valves guarantee operating reliability with minimal maintenance requirements. Furthermore, they provide accurate flow control that boosts fluid handling system efficiency, which makes them essential parts for important uses where corrosion and saltwater resistance are required.

7. Industrial Process Fluids

Aluminum bronze plays a vital role in equipment that handles industrial process fluids. It is resistant to corrosion from many industrial fluids. Parts made from aluminum bronze significantly extend the lifespan of equipment, guaranteeing reliable and consistent performance over timeAluminum bronze plays a vital role in equipment that handles industrial process fluids such as acids and alkalis. It is resistant to corrosion from many industrial fluids. Key components of chemical processing plant pumps, valves, and fittings are made of aluminum bronze. The durability and efficiency of vital equipment in industrial environments are improved by its resistance to corrosion in acids and alkalis.

Is Aluminum Bronze Used in Sand Casting?

Yes, aluminum bronze is used in sand casting. Because of its strength and resistance to corrosion, aluminum bronze is sometimes used for sand casting at the foundry. This guarantees the creation of castings that are robust and resistant to corrosion.

What Are the Advantages of Aluminum Bronze?

Listed below are some of the advantages of using aluminum bronze:

  1. Aluminum bronze tools exhibit exceptional hardness and compressive strength, wearing out and breaking at a slower rate.
  2. With an unlubricated friction coefficient of about 0.18, aluminum bronze minimizes friction between tools and materials, surpassing standard tool steel with its coefficient of 1.11.
  3. Available in either wrought or cast forms, providing flexibility in manufacturing processes.
  4. Facilitates easy welding, contributing to efficient fabrication.
  5. Exhibits exceptional durability against wear and abrasion in various applications.
  6. Ideal for environments where sparks pose risks, enhancing safety in potentially hazardous settings.

What Are the Disadvantages of Aluminum Bronze?

Some disadvantages of using aluminum bronze are:

  1. Requires specific care for appearance maintenance, involving cleaning with a mild soap and water solution, followed by drying with a soft cloth.
  2. The higher cost of aluminum bronze compared to brass stems from its alloy composition. Both copper-based alloys, and aluminum bronze incorporate pricier metals like tin, aluminum, or silicon. These additions enhance bronze's strength and pool corrosion resistance, justifying the increased expense when compared to the more economically composed brass.
  3. The alloy's hardness, while beneficial in some applications, introduces machining challenges, necessitating the use of advanced cutting tools and techniques.
  4. The availability of aluminum bronze is more limited compared to other bronze types, potentially leading to challenges in sourcing and impacting accessibility for specific applications.

Does Aluminum Bronze Rust?

No, aluminum bronze does not rust. Rusting specifically refers to the corrosion of iron-based alloys, while aluminum bronze, composed of aluminum, copper, and sometimes other elements, may corrode but does not undergo rusting as iron does.

Is Aluminum Bronze Better Than Bronze??

Yes, aluminum bronze is generally considered better than traditional bronze, which typically consists of copper and tin. Aluminum bronze exhibits enhanced mechanical properties, including higher yield strength, making it suitable for applications demanding increased durability and strength. The presence of aluminum in the alloy contributes to these improved characteristics, and its lattice mismatch with copper can lead to the formation of specific phases, allowing for heat treatment to achieve the desired properties.

Does Aluminum Bronze Tarnish?

No, aluminum bronze is highly tarnish-resistant, making it the most tarnish-resistant among copper alloys. Its appearance remains unaffected even when exposed to atmospheric corrosion, highlighting its durability and resistance to tarnishing.

Is Aluminum Bronze As Strong as Steel?

Yes, aluminum bronze can exhibit strength comparable to low alloy steel and certain stainless steels, depending on alloy compositions and heat treatment. However, it's essential to note that some steel grades, particularly high-alloy and tool steel, generally possess greater strength than aluminum bronze.

Summary

This article presented aluminum bronze, explained it, and discussed its various types and applications. To learn more about aluminum bronze, contact a Xometry representative.

Xometry provides a wide range of manufacturing capabilities and other value-added services for all of your prototyping and production needs. Visit our website to learn more or to request a free, no-obligation quote.

Disclaimer

The content appearing on this webpage is for informational purposes only. Xometry makes no representation or warranty of any kind, be it expressed or implied, as to the accuracy, completeness, or validity of the information. Any performance parameters, geometric tolerances, specific design features, quality and types of materials, or processes should not be inferred to represent what will be delivered by third-party suppliers or manufacturers through Xometry’s network. Buyers seeking quotes for parts are responsible for defining the specific requirements for those parts. Please refer to our terms and conditions for more information.

Xomety X
Team Xometry
This article was written by various Xometry contributors. Xometry is a leading resource on manufacturing with CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, 3D printing, injection molding, urethane casting, and more.

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