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Busbar Power Distribution Systems – Aluminium Or Copper?

Busbar power distribution systems have become increasingly popular over the years, and have become more and more sophisticated and versatile, making them the first choice for power distribution projects.

Their popularity has increased since such systems started being manufactured with aluminium conductors, providing several key benefits.

For instance, aluminium busbars are, on the whole, lighter than more traditional models, and are easier, quicker, and cheaper to install.

They are manufactured using high quality components and have built-in safety features, and offer flexibility in design, meaning they can be easily adapted and modified.

However, aluminium busbars, despite being the method of choice across the world, are yet to catch on in the UK, with British businesses instead favouring copper.

This may be due to the conception that aluminium is an inferior conductor of electricity when compared to its copper counterpart. Indeed, aluminium has only 62% of copper’s conductivity.

Yet there are other comparative considerations that one has to make when choosing a busbar that is right for a particular application.

Aluminium holds two key advantages over copper. One is the fact that it is up to 70% lighter in weight, meaning that it not only cuts costs from transportations, but also time and effort, and ultimately cost of installation. This means that if you compare an aluminium system with one made from copper of the same weight and size, aluminium is actually twice as conductive. Weight is therefore a huge factor in choosing which material has the advantage.

Aluminium is far more susceptible to oxidisation, meaning that it has come in for much criticism from specifiers, who point out that that this chemical process affects the contact conductivity at the joining. However, this problem has been overcome by manufacturers of busbar systems, by electro-tin plating the conduction bars, eliminating the problems associated with jointing dissimilar metals.

Contact with other metals is another area where aluminium holds an advantage. Although other ferrous metals are susceptible to sparking when combined with other metals, aluminium does not. This makes it an ideal choice for use in environments that are potentially inflammable or explosive.

Aluminium is also a great choice for applications that need minimum magnetic interference, such as high-voltage and electronic environments, as it is a non-magnetic material.

From a businesses point of view though, the main disadvantage of copper is the cost. Prices for copper have soared in recent years, while the aluminium of aluminium has largely remained stable.

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