Types of Copper-Nickel Alloys

The basic copper-nickel alloying system is relatively simple, improving on the overall properties of copper in terms of strength and corrosion resistance while maintaining a high inherent resistance to biofouling. Binary copper-nickel alloys comfortably exist as a solid solution throughout their full range of compositions and have an alpha face-centred cubic crystal structure. Adding nickel to copper increases the strength and many features of corrosion resistance.

Alloys with higher than 10% nickel content, and those which are more highly alloyed with chromium, aluminum and tin are used where greater resistance to flow conditions, sand abrasion, wear and galling, as well as higher mechanical properties, are required.

Marine Alloys

Alloys for marine environments include general engineering and high-strength grades:

  • 90-10 Copper-Nickel (C70600,CW352H) has 10% nickel and is the most commonly used wrought copper alloy for marine engineering applications. It has small but important additions of iron and manganese to improve its resistance to localized corrosion and seawater flow. It is found in seawater systems for naval and commercial shipping and offshore oil and gas production, as well as in desalination and aquaculture.
  • 70-30 Copper-Nickel (C71500, CW354H) has 30% nickel. It is stronger than 90-10 copper-nickel and can resist higher flow rates. It too has small but controlled amounts of iron and manganese to optimize its corrosion properties. It was originally developed for naval applications but is now in wider use particularly in multistage flash desalination units.
  • 66-30-2-2 Cu-Ni (C71640, CW353H) This modified 70-30 alloy contains 2% iron and 2% Mn and can withstand higher flow rates than 90-10 and 70-30. However, its relative resistance to localized corrosion is slightly less. The alloy is successfully used as condenser tubing. Commercially, this is its main product form. It was originally developed for higher resistance to erosion corrosion in the presence of suspended solids and has been extremely successful in multi-stage flash desalination plants, particularly in the heat rejection and brine heater sections.
  • Copper-Nickel-Chromium: A wrought Cu-Ni-Cr alloy with 16% Ni and 0.5% Cr (UNS C72200) was developed to allow higher flow velocities in condenser tubing. A cast alloy with 30% Ni and 2% Cr by the UK Royal Navy (UK Defence Standard 02-824) is used as an alternative to nickel aluminum bronze for cast valve bodies and pump components.
  • High-Strength Copper-Nickel Alloys:
    • The addition of aluminum can increase the strength of copper-nickel by conventional precipitation hardening mechanisms. Cu-Ni-Al alloys, principally consisting of Ni3Al and known as gamma prime, are used in shafts and bearing brushes, bolting, pump and valve trim, gears and fasteners.
    • The addition of tin displays spinodal strengthening via sub-microscopic chemical composition fluctuations. Cu-Ni-Sn alloys are used subsea where bearing performance, non-magnetic, low-fouling, anti-galling or high strength properties are required. Example applications include subsea manifold and ROV lock-on devices and seawater pump components, stems, bushes and bearings, drill components, subsea connectors and lifting nuts.

Non-Marine Alloys

  • 75-25 Copper-Nickel: This alloy, which contains a trace amount of Mn, is commonly used in today's silver-colored coins.
  • 55-45 Copper-Nickel: This alloy is commonly used in thermocouples and resistors because its resistivity is relatively constant over a wide range of temperatures.
  • Other alloys: Some of the marine alloys mentioned above have found non-marine applications (e.g., 90-10 Cu-Ni for brake tubing and antimicrobial applications.

Compositions

Nominal Compositions of Copper-Nickel Alloys (weight %)
AlloyEN No or Other IdentificationUNS NoCuNiFeMnAlSnOther

*Other proprietary compositions are available in these alloy groups.

Source: Copper Alloys for Marine Environments; CDA Publication No. 206; Dec. 2012; Table 9.

Cu-Ni CW352H C70600 Rem 10 1.5 1
CW353H C71640 Rem 30 2 2
CW354H C71500 Rem 30 0.7 0.7
Cu-Ni-Cr Def Stan 02-824 Part 1 - 30 0.8 0.8 1.8Cr
- C72200 Rem 16 0.7 0.7     0.5Cr
Cu-Ni-Al* Cu-15Ni-3Al - Rem 14.5 1.5 0.3 3
Cu-Ni-Sn* Cu-15Ni-8Sn C72900 Rem 15 8

Variations in the common national and international specifications for the 90-10, 70-30 and 66-30-2-2 copper-nickel alloys are shown in the table below. From this, the extent to which various standard materials overlap may be compared. In some standards, the impurities are more closely controlled than in others. In cases of doubt, the supplier's advice should be obtained.

Standard Compositions of Wrought Cu-Ni Alloys (UNS Copper Alloy Numbers)
Maximum or Range
UNS NumberCuPbFeZnNi (incl Co)MnOther
* Special limits apply when the product is to be welded and is so specified by the purchaser: 0.5% Zn, 0.02% P, 0.02% Pb, 0.02% S and 0.05% C
C70600 Rem 0.05* 1.0-1.8 1.0* 9.0-11.0 1.0 *
C71500 Rem 0.05* 0.4-1.0 1.0* 29.0-33.0 1.0 *
C71640 Rem 0.01 1.7-2.3 - 29.0-32.0 1.5-2.5 0.03S, 0.06C
European Copper Alloy Numbers
Designation
SymbolNumberCuCCo*FeMnNiPPbSnZnOther**
*Co max 0.1% is counted as Ni
**S 0.05% max
CuNi10-Fe1Mn CW3-52H Rem 0.05 0.1 1.0-2.0 0.5-1.0 9.0-10.0 0.02 0.02 0.03 0.5 0.2
CuNi30-Fe2Mn2 CW3-53H Rem 0.05 0.1 1.5-2.5 1.5-2.5 29.0-32.0 0.02 0.02 0.05 0.5 0.2
CuNi30-Mn1Fe CW3-54H Rem 0.05 0.1 0.4-1.0 0.5-1.5 30.0-32.0 0.02 0.02 0.05 0.5 0.2

Effects of Alloying Additives and Impurities

Small amounts of other elements are often added to copper-nickel to achieve specific desirable properties. But certain impurity elements, such as lead, sulfur, carbon, bismuth, antimony and phosphorus may impair weldability and hot workability. Therefore, chemical concentrations must be carefully controlled. Common additives and impurities in copper-nickel alloys include the following:

  • Manganese is invariably present in the commercial alloys as a de-oxidant and de-sulfurizer. It improves working characteristics and contributes to corrosion resistance in seawater.
  • Iron is added (up to about 2.5%) to alloys required for marine applications. Iron confers resistance to impingement attack by flowing seawater and increases the strength. Initial development of the optimum compositions of the copper-30%nickel-iron alloys took place in the 1930's. This work was carried out to meet naval requirements for improved corrosion-resistant materials for condenser tubes and other applications involving contact with seawater. (NOTE: the term "copper-nickel (Cu-Ni)" refers to copper-nickel-iron alloys.)
  • Chromium improves resistance to erosion in fast-flowing seawater. It can replace some of the iron content. At 1% or more, chromium increases strength. Chromium is used in a 30% nickel casting alloy (UK Defence Standard 02-824) and in a lower chromium, 16% nickel, wrought alloy (C72200).
  • Niobium (Columbium) can increase strength. It also improves the weldability of cast alloys.
  • Aluminum is used in the age-hardening process for high-strength copper-nickels.
  • Silicon is a deoxidant that improves castability, increases strength and reduces ductility.
  • Tin confers an improved resistance to atmospheric tarnishing. At 2%, it is used with 9% nickel to produce the alloy C72500. This alloy has useful stress relaxation and spring properties and is used in the electronics industry. Alloys with 4-10% tin can provide hardening to provide high strength, wear and galling characteristics.
  • Titanium is essential in welding consumables. It promotes the formation of pore-free welds.
  • Zinc is a primary constituent in Cu-Ni-Zn alloys, also known as nickel-silvers. In contrast, zinc in Cu-Ni alloys are restricted to less than 1%.
  • Antimony, arsenic, lead, sulphur, phosphorus, tellurium and bismuth alone or in combination have little effect on corrosion resistance. Because of their influence on hot ductility, they may impair weldabilty. Therefore, they are carefully controlled to low levels.

Standards

Alloy Cross-Reference Table

A useful Cross-Reference Table of copper-nickel alloys was prepared by Deutsches Kupferinstitut.

References

  1. 90/10 and 70/30 Alloys Technical Data, Publication TN 31, , CDA UK, .
  2. A New Copper-Nickel Alloy for Utility Condenser Tubes, Carl J. Gaffoglio, pp 60-62, , CDA, Reprinted from Power Engineering .
  3. Application of Copper Nickel UNS C70600 for Seawater Service, Wilhelm Schleich, Paper No 5222, , CORROSION/2005, Houston, NACE International, .
  4. Copper Alloys for Marine Environments, Carol Powell and Peter Webster, Publication 206 Second Revision, , CDA UK, .
  5. Copper and Copper Alloys, Compositions Applications and Properties, Publication No 120, , CDA UK, .
  6. Copper-Nickel Alloys: Properties, Processing, Application, Booklet, German Copper Institute (DKI), English translation .
  7. High Strength Copper-Nickels, Tuck, C.D.S., , UK, Langley Alloys, .
  8. Performance Advances in Copper-Nickel-Tin Spinodal Alloys, W. Raymond Cribb, Michael J. Gedeon, and Fritz C. Grensing, Advanced Materials and Processes, Vol. 171, 9, , ASM, .
  9. The Development of Very High Strength Copper Alloys with Resistance to Hydrogen Embrittlement and Stress Corrosion Cracking, C.D.S. Tuck, , Corrosion/2005 Annual Conference and Exhibition, Houston, ©NACE, .