Difference Between Copper and Brass

Main Difference – Copper vs Brass

Copper, brass, and bronze may look similar, but there are factors that can be used to distinguish these substances. Color can sometimes be a useful factor but, since it is a qualitative parameter, the observations may vary from one person to another. But one can identify whether it is copper, brass, or bronze with the help of physical and chemical parameters as well. The main difference between copper and brass is that copper is a metal whereas brass is a metal alloy.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Copper
      – Composition, Appearance, Properties, Uses
2. What is Brass
      – Composition, Appearance, Properties, Uses
3. What is the difference between Copper and Brass
      – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms:  Alloy, Brass, Bronze, Copper, Corrosion, MetalDifference Between Brass and Copper - Comparison Summary

What is Copper

Copper is a reddish-brown colored metal with a shiny appearance. It is a pure elemental metal without having any other elements mixed with it. Copper has very less magnetic properties. It may show a response towards a magnet when exposed to a very large magnetic field. Copper is one of the metals that are largely used as electrical conductors due to their high capability to conduct electricity efficiently.

The strength of copper metal is poor; thus, it is not often used for structural applications. Although it is not very strong, it cannot be broken easily, which means that it’s tough. Copper is also very ductile and malleable, so it can easily be drawn into thread-like structures. Therefore, it is used in electrical applications and in the jewelry industry. It is also a good heat conductor.

Copper is used in the production of metal alloys. Many artists prefer to use copper for their creations because it is easily oxidized to a green color when exposed to the atmosphere.

Copper shows a high degree of corrosion resistance. This causes it to be used in production and manufacturing of pipes and pipe fittings. The weldability of copper is also high. Therefore, it is easy to be handled. There are grades of copper according to the amount of impurities present. But, the metal with impurities is not considered as a metal alloy because metal alloys are made intentionally by mixing two or more elements.

Difference Between Copper and Brass

Figure 1: Copper is used for manufacturing of pipe fittings.

What is Brass?

Brass can be defined as a metal alloy made out of copper and zinc along with other elements. It has a bright golden color and shows good malleability and durability. Brass is corrosion resistant but not towards the salt water. The other elements which are mixed with copper and zinc can be either lead or aluminium.

Increased amounts of zinc provide brass a good strength and ductility. Although brass is typically bright golden in color, the color may vary depending on the amount of zinc added.

Brass is mainly used for decorative purposes. That is due to its properties like color and malleability. Although brass has a good strength, it is a soft metal alloy. Therefore, it should not be placed where sparks are produced or near explosive gases.

Aluminium is added to brass for more corrosion resistance and strength improvement. Tin also provides the same properties; thus, it is also used for this purpose. Lead is added to improve the machinability.

Main Difference - Copper vs Brass

Figure 2: A Brass Sculpture

Difference Between Copper and Brass

Definition

Copper:  Copper is a metal composed of copper atoms.

Brass: Brass is a metal alloy composed of a mixture of metals.

Composition

Copper:  Copper is composed of copper atoms and other impurities in trace amounts.

Brass: Brass is composed of copper and zinc along with other elements such as aluminium and lead. 

Appearance

Copper:  Copper has a rustic finish.

Brass: Brass has a lighter finish.

Color

Copper: Copper is reddish brown in color.

Brass: Brass is bright golden colored.

Corrosion Resistance

Copper:  Copper shows a good resistance towards corrosion.

Brass: Brass is also corrosion resistant but not towards the salt water.

Uses

Copper:  Copper is used in manufacturing pipes and pipe fittings, sculpture creations, making wires, etc.

Brass: Brass is used mainly for decorative purposes.

Conclusion

Although copper and brass may seem similar, there are some factors which cause the difference between brass and copper. The main difference between copper and brass is that copper is a metal whereas brass is a metal alloy. Copper is reddish brown in color whereas brass is bright gold in color.

References:

1.” How to Tell the Difference between Bronze, Brass and Copper.” Do it yourself. N.p., 27 July 2010. Web. 15 June 2017. 
2.Helmenstine, Anne Marie. “What Is Brass? Composition and Properties.” ThoughtCo. N.p., n.d. Web. . 14 June 2017. 

Image Courtesy:

1. “Copper fittings” by Tony Hisgett via
2. “Brass leopard” By ZSM – Own work via

About the Author: Madhusha

Madhusha is a BSc (Hons) graduate in the field of Biological Sciences and is currently pursuing for her Masters in Industrial and Environmental Chemistry. Her interest areas for writing and research include Biochemistry and Environmental Chemistry.

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