Difference Between Copper and Bronze

Key Difference – Copper vs Bronze

Many differences can be observed between Copper and Bronze based on their composition, usage, and properties. Copper is a pure chemical element and a natural mineral that can be found mainly in the earth’s crust and water in smaller quantities. In contrast, bronze is an alloy which contains copper as the main constituent with tin and some other metal and non-metal compounds. Bronze alloys have a range of various types, with different compositions; so that different alloys have different properties and applications. Copper is an excellent electrical and thermal conductor. It also has numerous applications in various fields. However, the key difference between copper and bronze is, Copper is a pure chemical element as well as a natural mineral whereas bronze is a metal alloy. 

What is Copper?

The word, Copper is derived from the Latin word “cuprum”. It is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. Copper is a ductile metal possessing very high electrical and thermal conductivity. Copper, due to its excellent electrical and thermal conductivity, resistance to corrosion, formability, and good strength, is used in manufacturing a broad range of industrial products. For example, copper is widely used as a heat and electrical conductor, building material, and in the  production of various metal alloys. In addition, pipes and pipe fittings are mostly produced using copper, due to its corrosion resistance.

Copper can be easily and readily soldered and brazed easily with other metals and also can be welded by various arc, gas and resistance methods. Moreover, it can be polished and varnished to obtain desired luster appearance.      Difference Between Copper and Bronze

What is Bronze?

Bronze is a metal alloy containing copper as the main constituent and tin about 12%. Some other metals and nonmetals or metalloids are also added, depending on the requirements, to obtain desired properties. Most commonly added metals are aluminum, manganese, zinc or nickel. Examples of other components are silicon, phosphorous or arsenic. The addition of various metal and non-metal compounds results in producing a broad range of bronze alloys with various properties. Key Difference - Copper vs Bronze

What is the difference between Copper and Bronze?

Composition of Copper and Bronze

Copper: Copper is naturally present in the earth’s crust as a mineral at a concentration of 50 ppm. The primary source of copper is Copper iron sulfide (CuFeS2), which is also known as chalcopyrite. But, it exists in pure form as a natural mineral without combining with other elements; it is called “native copper.” There are 29 isotopes of copper, and only two types (63Cu and 65Cu) are stable and the other isotopes are radioactive.

Bronze: Bronze is a metal alloy containing copper (Cu) as the central element and Tin (Sn) is the second important element. Their percentages vary depending on the required properties, but most commonly, it has about 12% of tin and 88% of Copper. Their percentages slightly vary when other metals and non-metals compounds are added.

There are so many different bronze alloys, and they possess different properties according to their usage.

Commercial bronze: Copper (90%), Zinc (10%)

Architectural bronze: Copper (57%), Zinc (40%), Lead (3%)

Plastic bronze: Contains a significant amount of Lead (Pb) to improve plastic properties.

Phosphor Bronze (or Tin Bronze):  Copper, Tin ( 0.5% to 1.0%), phosphorous (0.01% to 0.35%).

Aluminum Bronze: Copper, Aluminum (6% – 12%), Iron (6% -max), Nickel (6% – max).

Silicon Bronze: Copper, Zinc (20%), silicon (6%).

Properties of Copper and Bronze

Copper: Copper have very high thermal and electrical properties. It is a soft and ductile metal, which can be easily soldered and brazed with other metals to produce alloys. In other words, it is durable, flexible and very hard to break or crack. It can bend, stretch or shape it into anything without cracking or damaging.

Bronze: Bronze alloys have various properties depending on its compositions. In general, It is harder than Copper, and it is also durable. Bronze cannot be easily flexed like copper.

Uses of Copper and Bronze

Copper: Copper has a wide range of uses in many areas; mainly in wiring, roofing and plumbing equipment due to its high electrical conductivity, corrosion resistance, and durability. It is also used to produce coins, alloys, machine parts and in architecture. Only a small amount is used to produce nutritional supplements and fungicides.

Bronze: Bronze is widely used in many ships and boat parts and gears; because, bronze can withstand water, and it is resistance to seawater corrosion. In addition, it is used to produce medals and music instruments.

Image Courtesy:
“NatCopper” by Native_Copper_Macro_Digon3.jpg: “Jonathan Zander (Digon3)”derivative work: Materialscientist (talk) – Native_Copper_Macro_Digon3.jpg. (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons
“Hedwigsmedaille.bronze.1″ by Bautsch – Own work. (CC0) via Wikimedia Commons