Will copper someday be not-so-essential for the green economy?

2011-02-17T15:33:00Z 2011-02-18T08:45:45Z Will copper someday be not-so-essential for the green economy?Tony Davis Arizona Daily Star
February 17, 2011 3:33 pm  • 

This article from R&D magazine raises that possibility for one of the current green stalwarts -- hybrid cars.

The article confirms what Rosemont Copper and others in the copper industry have said: that today, copper is "the conductive material of choice" in gas-electric hybrids. But since aluminum is cheaper and lighter than copper, the article says that scientists from a German university have already found what "tricks" would make it possible to replace copper with aluminum. Before that can happen, a number of technological challenges remain, the article goes on to say, not the least of which is corrosion of aluminum wiring. Another problem is aluminum's lower electrical conductivity compared to copper, the article said.

Still, researchers at the Institute of Product Development at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen sounded optimistic the challenges can be met, with one quoted as saying, "We expect the high-voltage, on-board systems of most electric vehicles to be be based on aluminum by 2020. Aluminum will find its way into low-voltage, on-board systems as well, because the price of copper will rise significantly with increasing demand."

An official with Augusta Resource Corp., Rosemont Copper's parent, Vancouver, B.C.-based company, was more than a little skeptical of that prediction.

"I recall in the late 70's or mid-80's when aluminum wiring was used to replace copper in residential construction. A few years later there were regrets aplenty as mobile and stick built homes went up in flames due to overheating aluminum wiring, " said Jamie Sturgess, Augusta's vice president for sustainability.

"There are good applications for both copper and aluminum.  There will be

price-replacement as in other industries, but the fundamental properties

do not change," Sturgess said.

 

 

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About this blog

Star reporter Tony Davis covers topics in this blog that you have read under his byline for more than 30 years in the Southwest: water, growth, sprawl, pollution, climate change, endangered species, mining, grazing and traffic.

To reach Tony call 806-7746 (office) or 349-0350 (cell) or write him at tdavis@tucson.com.

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