Both brass and bronze are alloys of copper. They are solid solutions of copper and other alloying elements. Basically, we can classify brass and bronze depending on the main alloying element. This differentiation causes distinct properties in these two alloys.
What is Brass?
Brass is a copper-zinc alloy; its zinc content is up to around 45% of the weight. Generally, manufacturers add tin, aluminium, silicon, manganese, nickel and lead to brass as additional alloying elements. Moreover, we can obtain desirable properties of brass by varying the composition percentages.
Due to its outstanding castability and low cost, brass is the most common copper alloy. Zinc in brass makes it stronger and cheaper but reduces the electrical conductivity and resistant to corrosion. In addition, changing the zinc percentage gives the variation of colour in brass. Due to its yellowish/golden colour of brass, they are useful for decorative purposes. Malleability is one of the vital properties of brass. Because of this, brass can be thinned out to very fine foils. Malleability depends on the zinc content of brass. Brass with high zinc content is less malleable. In addition, the coefficient of friction of brass is low. This property makes brass suitable for low friction applications.
What is Bronze?
Generally, bronze is a copper-tin alloy. Moreover, copper-aluminium alloys and copper silicon alloys are also called bronze. We can classify bronze depending on other alloying elements. Lead, zinc, phosphorous, aluminium, silicon, and silver are its additional alloying elements.
Bronze is more expensive than brass since the dominant alloying element in bronze is tin. Tin increases strength, hardness, fluidity and corrosion resistance of bronze. Therefore, bronze is somewhat superior to brass. Bronze is slightly less malleable than brass due to the presence of tin.
What are the Similarities Between Brass and Bronze?
- Both brass and bronze are alloys of copper.
- These alloys are ductile, workable and have excellent electrical conductivity.
- Due to their high resistance to corrosion and good heat conductivity, they are used in heat exchangers, heating systems, automobile applications, pipes and fittings.
- The additional elements alloyed with copper reduce the melting point of the base metal, giving these alloys a good castability.
- Seawater condenser systems, pipe works in chemical plants, automotive parts, marine applications, coins, medals, thermocouples, resistance wire, etc are some of the applications of brass and bronze.
What is the Difference Between Brass and Bronze?
The key difference between brass and bronze is that brass contains copper and zinc whereas bronze contains copper and tin. Brass consists of zinc as the main alloying element, while tin or aluminium or silicon is the main alloying element of bronze. Therefore, brass is cheaper than bronze. In addition, brass is more malleable than bronze. The following infographic summarizes the difference between brass and bronze.
Summary – Brass vs Bronze
Both brass and bronze are alloys of copper. The key difference between brass and bronze is that brass contains copper and zinc whereas bronze contains copper and tin.
1. Helmenstine, Anne Marie. “What Is Brass? Composition and Properties.” ThoughtCo, Jul. 28, 2019, Available here.