Beryllium Copper Alloys
Beryllium copper is a ductile, weldable, and machinable alloy.
Like pure copper, it is resistant to non-oxidizing acids such as hydrochloric acid and carbonic acid, plastic decomposition products, abrasive wear, and corrosion.
It can be heat-treated to increase strength, durability, and electrical conductivity.
Beryllium copper achieves the highest strength (up to 1,400 MPa or 200,000 psi) of any copper-based alloy. It has good thermal conductivity (62 Btu/ft-deg.F-H), 3-5 times more than tool steel. It has a solid melting point of 1590 degrees Fahrenheit and a liquid melting point of 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. It has excellent hot-forming capability.
BM 172HT or C17200 copper has strength and hardness similar to steel, and its Rockwell hardness properties in the peak-aged condition are in the range of 200 ksi and RC45.
BM 172HT or C17200 has excellent corrosion resistance properties when exposed to adverse conditions such as seawater and well bottom environments.
It will withstand sulfide or chloride stress corrosion cracking and resist the effects of carbon dioxide and hydrogen embrittlement. Copper alloys, in general, have always been considered non-sparking.
C17200 has the strength to withstand the use of hand and mechanical tools. These non-sparking features are best applied in explosive environments such as the oil and gas and powder industries.
Beryllium copper is a non-ferrous alloy used in springs, spring wire, load cells, and other parts that must maintain their shape under repeated stresses and strains. It has high electrical conductivity and is used in low-current contacts for batteries and electrical connectors.
Beryllium copper does not produce sparks but is physically resistant and non-magnetic, meeting the requirements of the ATEX directive for zones 0, 1, and 2. BeCu screwdrivers, pliers, wrenches, cold chisels, knives, and hammers are available for explosion-risk environments such as oil platforms, coal mines, and grain elevators. An alternative non-sparking metal sometimes used for tools is aluminum bronze. Compared to steel tools, beryllium copper tools are more expensive and not as strong, but the properties of beryllium copper in hazardous environments can outweigh the disadvantages.
Some other uses include:
Some percussion instruments for their consistent tone and resonance, primarily tambourines and triangles.
Ultralow-temperature cryogenic equipment, such as dilution refrigerators, due to its mechanical strength and relatively high thermal conductivity in this temperature range.
Molds for manufacturing plastic containers (including virtually all plastic milk jugs) using the blow molding process.
Armor-piercing bullets, although such use is uncommon because bullets made of steel alloys are much cheaper and have similar properties.
Measurement-while-drilling (MWD) tools in the directional drilling industry. A non-magnetic alloy is required as magnetometers are used for field strength data received from the tool. Also, for its high strength combined with anti-galling properties.
Maintenance of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines, where high-intensity magnetic fields make the use of ferrous tools dangerous, and where magnetic materials in the field can disrupt the image.
Joints used to create a radio-frequency (RF) leak-proof seal on doors used with EMC testing and anechoic chambers.
For a time, beryllium copper was used in the manufacturing of golf clubs, mainly wedges and irons. Although some golfers preferred the feel of BeCu clubheads, regulatory issues and high costs have made BeCu clubs difficult to find in current production.
The Kiefer Plating (now defunct) of Elkhart, Indiana, built beryllium and copper trumpet bells for the Schilke Music Co. of Chicago. These lightweight bells produce a sound preferred by some musicians.
Beryllium copper wire is produced in various forms: round, square, flat and shaped, in coils, in spools, and in straight lengths.
Beryllium copper valve seats and guides are used in high-performance four-stroke engines with coated titanium valves. BeCu dissipates valve heat up to seven times faster than powder or cast iron valve seats and guides. The softer BeCu reduces valve wear and increases valve life.
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