Although copper continues to maintain great relevance in the electrical world because of its high conductivity and his comfortable price, In the market, research in the United States has identified a new strong competitor in metals that can replace it. About this alloy.
Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), specialists in materials science, have discovered that aluminum is not only cheaper but also lighter and more abundant than copper, which is used in everything from electronics to power distribution networks. Their findings are published in Physical Review B.
Why is aluminum a better alternative to copper?
Aluminum, a metal known for its lightness and corrosion resistance, has emerged as a good alternative to copper in terms of electrical conductivity.
According to updated data from Statista, aluminum offers an economical and practical solution for industries that seek to reduce costs without sacrificing quality. In addition, its abundance in the Earth’s crust makes it more accessible and sustainable in the long term.
Although copper has historically been preferred for its greater conductivity, aluminum has significant advantages in terms of weight and versatility because, as 30% lighter, it can be ideal for technologies where weight is an important factor, like electric cars and airplanes.
The demand for copper quickly outstrips its availability, so its cost rises. Photo: NegosyoLIVE
However, even if everything sounds rosy, the main challenge for scientists is always to improve the electrical conductivity of aluminum so that it is comparable to the main conductive metal since it has only 60%.
“What if you could make aluminum more conductive, even 80% or 90% as conductive as copper? You could replace it, and that would make a big difference because aluminum is lighter, cheaper, and more abundant,” Keerti Kappagantula, a scientist at PNNL, said in a statement.
How does the conductivity of aluminum increase?
To achieve greater conductivity in aluminum, the PNNL team focused its efforts on modifying the atomic structure of the metal in addition to identifying its temperature effects and structural defects as a conductor.
Since this is a new approach for metals, the researchers looked to semiconductors for inspiration because previous studies have successfully replicated the conductivity of materials based on silicon and some metal oxides.
After adapting these concepts, they simulated what would happen to the conductivity of aluminum if the individual atoms in its structure were changed. This whole process creates huge gains in the overall conductivity of the metal.
“We don’t think these results will be close to the truth,” Kappagantula said. “This simulation model based on the atomic structure and its different states was so accurate that I said, ‘Oh, that’s right on target.’ It’s very exciting.”
According to experts, now the next step remains: jumping from simulation to laboratory experiments to see if the theory matches the results.