Copper powder is finely granulated copper that has many metallurgic functions. The powder is cheaper than regular cast copper, so engineers can save money on supplies, and it often helps conserve materials because less copper will be needed. Copper powder also can be made to have different densities if handled by a powder metallurgist, meaning the copper can be porous and impregnated with oils or other metals, or it can be non-porous like cast copper. Powdered copper is used as an alloy, in metal-plastic combinations, and in structural applications.
Two main industrial processes turn copper, or any other metal, into a powder. In the atomization method, molten copper is pushed through a thin tube and gas pushes against the stream of metal, producing turbulence and causing the molten copper to powder. With centrifugal disintegration, copper rods are placed in a rotating spindle, and an arc heats the rods. By using constant rotation, small bits of the copper will fly off, producing the powder.
Price is a major reason why copper powder is used. Purchasing powdered copper is generally cheaper than buying cast copper, so engineers and metallurgists can save their money for more expensive materials. At the same time, the powder will need to be cast or worked with to be useful. This need to be cast also makes the powder versatile, because it can be used in many applications without needing to break down already cast copper.
Copper powder often is used as an alloying powder and is somewhat easier to work with than cast copper. This is because, in its powdered form, copper is easier to heat up and mix with other metals. Copper is often alloyed with iron and tin, and powdered copper can work the same as cast copper in this arena. As a powder, it also can be mixed with non-metals such as plastic to create new substances that are commonly used for decoration. Around 70 percent of powdered copper is used in making self-lubricating bearings, which take advantage of powdered copper’s porous nature.
When copper powder is being pushed together as a cast or used in other applications, a powder metallurgist will be able to control how porous the copper is. At highly porous levels, up to 60 percent, the copper will have holes in it that allow oils and other substances to pass through. Non-porous powder will be solid, just like regular cast copper, making it sturdier.