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Section I Aluminum-the Metal

Chapter 2

Aluminum Conductor Properties and Advantages

The mechanical and electrical properties of bare alu minum wire and stranded conductor are tabulated in Chapter 4 and of bus conductor in Chapter 13. Certaln general properties related to the use of aluminum, as distinct from other metals, in their application as electrical conductors are discussed in this chapter. Principally, these are: I. Conductivity: More than twice that of copper, per pound. 2. Light weight: Ease of handling, low installation costs, longer spans, and mOre distance between pull-ins. 3. Strength: A range of strengths from dead soft to that of mild steel, depending on alloy. The high est strength alloys are employed in structural, rather than electrical conductor, applications. 4. Workability: Permitting a wide range of processing from wire drawing to extrusion or rolling. Excel lent bend quality. 5. Corrosion resilance: A tough, protective oxide coat ing quickly forms on freshly exposed aluminum and it does not thicken significantly from con tinued exposure to alr. Most industrial, marine, and chemical atmospheres do not cause corrosion, providing the proper alloy is selected. The cor rosion resistance of all alloys can be improved by anodizing. 6. Creep: Like all metals under sustained stress, there is a gradual deformation over a term of years. With aluminum, design factors take it into account. 7. Compatibility with insulation: Does not adhere to or combine with usual insulating materials. No tin-coating required; clean stripping, Other qualities of aluminum, such as thermal con ductivity and fatigue resistance, have a bearing on con ductor section. The high-rellectivity and non-magnetic characteristics, as well as the properties under extremes of temperature, are rarely associated with any commercial use of electrical conductors; hence are not considered herein.

The Effect of Alloying A detailed study of aluminum applications usually involves aluminum alloys that have properties markedly different from those of the basic metal. Thus, less than 2.0 percent addition of other metals supplemented by a specified heat treatment converts nearly pure aluminum to 6101-T6 electrical bus conductor with an increase in minimum yield strength from 3.5 ksi to 25.0 ks!. The reduction of conductivity associated with this major change of strength is only from 61.0 percent lACS to 55.0 percent lACS. Merely adding the alloying elements to the mixture is not sufficient to produce the desired results. The strength of the non-heat-treatable alloys is brought to the value specified by the -H temper of the alloy by cold working and/or partial annealing, and the strength of the heat-treatable-alloys is brought to that of the specified -T temper by heat treatment as explained in greater detail in Chapter I. In the manufacture of heat-treatable aluminum alloy conductor wire, the supplemental treatment (cold worlting and heat treatment) usually is divided into two parts often at different locations: (I) that performed during the production of redraw rod (0.375 inch diameter) and (2) that performed during or after reduction of diameter of the redraw rod to the finished wire size. Bus-conductor shapes have most of the necessary heat treatment per formed during extrusion. Aging may be performed subsequently.

The conductivity of pure aluminum is about 65.0 percent lACS, However, the conductivity of aluminum 1350 is 61.0 percent lACS minimum due to low level impurities inherent to commerical processing (up to 62.4% lACS is available in 1350 on a special order basis). The conductivity for bus conductor alloys is shown in Table B-2. The conductivities of 6201 and the 8XXX series alloys in the tempers, which are used in the pro duction of wires for cables, are also shown in Table I- L A comparison of conductivities of metals sometimes used for electrical conductors is shown in Table 2-1. The


aluminurn---the metal
TABLE 2-1 Relative Conductivities of Pure Metals(l)
Conductivity : Percent lACS i Vol. Basis(2)
108.4 103.1 64.9 4.1 38.7 41.0

Liallt Weiallt
The relative conductor weights required for equal con ductivity using various metals are listed in Table 2-2. These were developed from Table 21 (percent lACS mass conductivity and density values) applying conversion methods described in ASTM Specification B 193. The lighter weight aluminum provides obvious handling cost reductions over heavier metals. Reduced capital and installation costs are an added advantage of aluminum conductors by reason of the long-span capability of ACSR and ACAR, and the greater distance between pull-in points in duct and conduit installation.


Conductivity Specific Percent lACS Gravity(3) Wgt. Basis(4)

10.49 8.93 2.70 4.51 1.74 0.97 91.9 102.6 213.7 8.1 197.7 376.2

Silver Copper ! Aluminum Titanian Magnesium i Sodium

(1) Conductivities and densities taken from the ASM Metals Handbook. Volume 2, Ninth Edition.
(2) Conductivity on a volume basis compares conductivities of metals for the same cross-sectional area and length. (3) Specific gravity is density of a materia! compared to that of 'pure water which has a density of one gmJcm~" (4) Conductivity on a weight basis compares the conductivities of metals

The tables of mechanical properties in Chapter 4 show rated fracture strengths of aluminum and aluminum-alloy conductors as single wires or as stranded cables, or in combination with steel reinforcing wires for ACSR (alumi num-conductor steel-reinforced) or with high-strength aluminum-alloy reinforcement for ACAR (aluminum cable alloy-reinforced). Cables of other types similarly are strength rated. Chapter 13 contains similar tables of sizes and structural properties of usual bus-conductor shapes so that tbe strength of a bus installation under normal or short-circuit conditions may be readily computed, using the unit ksi values of tensile strength for tbe various alloys as listed in Table 131. The reasons why alloying and associated cold-working and/or heattreatment increase the strength of the basic metal are explained in texts on aluminum metallurgy.

for the same weight.

metals listed are .those in almost pure form. As com mercially supplied, the conductivity values are slightly less. The reduction of conductivity caused by individual alloying agents in aluminum has been studied extensively. Iron, zinc, and nickel cause but small reductions in con ductivity of aluminum. Copper, silicon. magnesium, and vanadium produce greater reductions. Chrontium, titan ium, and manganese are alloying elements that cause the greatest reduction of conductivity. Copper as an alloying agent adds much to strength, but it is not used as a major alloying element in electrical conductors because of a re duction in corrosion resistance. Aluminum alloy 2024 T4 bolts contain copper as an important alloying element, but it is customary to anodize such bolts for corrosion protection and to lubricate them to reduce friction and prevent seizing. The variation of conductivity (and its reciprocal, reo sistivity) for usual applications is described in Chapter 3 where tables and formulas show the variation of co efficient of dc resistance with temperature and witb alloy for the usual range of conductor temperatures, to I200C. Temperature coefficients for busconductor alloys are listed in Table 13-3. Direct current (de) resistivity values for the usual aluminum alloys used for conductors are shown in Table 3-5. The resistance under alternating current (ac) condi tions involves the concept of skin effect and R=!R"c ratio as explained in Chapter 3.

This term has to do with the ability of the electrical con ductor to withstand single or repeated bending (the latter

Relative Weights of Bare Conductor to Provide Equal
Direct Current Conductance (20C) (as Related to
the Weight of a Conductor of Aluminum
1351l-61.0% lACS)

Percent lACS Percent lACS Mass Relative Volume Conductivity , Conductivity Weight
201 174 187 201 201 201 201 100 116 108 100 100 100 100 209 53


Aluminum 1350 61.0% lACS 6201T81 52.5% lACS 6101T65 56.5% lACS 8017H212 61.0% lACS 8030H221 61.0% lACS 8176H24 61.0% lACS 8177H221 61.0% lACS Copper Comm'l. HD 96.0% lACS Sodium 41.0% lACS



aluminum conductor properties and advantages

for portable cables), and for bus bars to be bent to a specified radius either tlatwise or edgewise. Aluminum compares favorably with other conductor metals in this regard. The bend radii for tlatwise and edgewise bending of aluminum bus bars depends on alloy and temper. They are listed in Tables 13-5 and -6 as a design guide to what can be expected during fabrication of a bus-bar assembly. The excellent workability of aluminum is also apparent from noting the facility with which it may be extruded, rolled, formed, and drawn. That bus conductors also can be readily welded with only partial loss of rated strength. compared with that of the unwelded alloy, is further evidence of the workability of aluminum. Creep can be considerably reduced by proper choice of metal, metal fabrication. shape and load, and the unwanted effects of creep may be nullified by proper deSign. Creep data have been incorporated in stress-strain curves for overhead conductors. Cable manufacturers supply sag and tension data that include the effect of creep. From Fig. 5-11, the IO-year creep for a 1350-H19 cable at 10 ksi is estimated to be 0.23 percent: the horizontal distance between curves 2 and 4 at 10 ksi. Similarly, by comparing Fig. 5-2 and 5-3, a WOO-foot span of ACSR cable is estimated to increase its sag from 22 feet to 26 reet in 10 years at WOP, and its tension drops from 5700 pounds to 5100 pounds. From the catenary Table 5-4, the ratio of arc length increase for this change of sag is about 0.17 percent; that is. the long time creep is about 1.7 feet of arc length for the WOO-foot span. Charts such as Fig. 5-11 also are available for many ACSR sizes to pro vide better accuracy. Bus bars creep in compression, and because the metal is not hard drawn, a 10-year creep of 1.0 percent generally is considered allowable. Design stresses to limit creep to this amount in various alloys are in Table 134,

Corl1lSion Resistance The inherent corrosion resistance of aluminum is due to the thin. tough, oxide coating that forms directly after a fresh surface of metallic aluminum is exposed to air. Another reason for the excellent corrosion resistance of aluminum conductors in ordinary atmospheres is that the alloy components are selected so as to minimize corrosion. Thus. suitable alloys of the 600Q..series, though not listed as "marine" alloys, are well suited for oceanshore applications. as well as for usual industrial and chemical atmospheres, as are the aluminum 1350 conductors. Instances where corrosion has appeared are usually traceable to connections between dissimilar metals subjected to moisture conditions. Protective means should be employed to prevent this. Present-day compression connectors act to break the oxide layer on the wires of stranded cable connections. Where unplated flat surfaces are joined. as with bus conductors or terminal pads. scratch brushing and the addition of oxide-inhibiting joint compound remove the oxide and prevent its further formation because the compound excludes oxygen.

Compatibility with Insulatillll Aluminum does not have the sulphur-combining prop erties of copper; hence it has no effect on rubber or rub ber-like compounds containing sulphur. Aluminum re quires no tinning of the conductor metal before insulation is applied. Also, it does not produce stearates Or soaps by combining with oil content of an insulation. Usual insulating materials do not adhere to the aluminum: hence removal is easily performed by simple stripping.

Thermal Properties
The variation of electrical dc resistance with tempera ture was covered in the preceding discussion of conduc tivity. Other thermal properties that require consideration in applications are the expansion or contraction with changes in temperature and the thermal conductivity (the rate at which heat is conducted). The usual design coefficients of linear expansion for the principal conductor metals as well as those to which the conductor might be joined are as follows: Aluminum 0.0000230 in.lin.lOC Copper 0.0000169 in.lin.lOC Steel 0.0000115 in.lin.lOC Slight differences occur for various aDoys and tempera ture ranges, but they are not significant in usual engineer ing design. The coefficient for the bronze alloys commonly used for bolts is about the same as that listed for copper. Allowance must be made for differing rates of thermal expansion when aluminum is joined by steel or bronze bolts, or when aluminum pads are bolted to copper pads. For overhead cables, changes in sag due to temperature changes are discussed in Chapter 5. Actual movement of

Creep Creep is plastic deformation that occurs in metal at stresses below its yield strength. Normally, metal stressed below yield for a short time returns to its original shape and size by virtue of its elasticity. However, when the time period is sufficiently long, plastic deformation. called creep, occurs. This deformation is in addition to the expected elastic deformation. The extent of creep is determined by the properties of the metal involved, applied stress, temperature and time under load. For example, hard-drawn 1350-H19 aluminum wire in stranded cables under a steadily applied load of 14 ksi at 20'C (70 percent of minimum yield strength) will creep approximately 0.4 to 0.6 percent of initial length in 10 years.


aluminum-the metal
insulated conductors in duct, conduit, tray, or when buried, is not proportional to increase in conductor length with temperature. Tests show that lateral displace ment (snaking) of the cables will absorb 3 to 5 times the increase in length. The thermal conductivity of aluminum depends on alloy and temper. For 1350-H19, it is about 0.56 callcm2/cml OC/sec. whereas for alloys of lower electrical conductivity, it is less. For 6063-T6, it is about 0.48. For copper, it is about 0.98, hence heat is not conducted away from a hot spot in aluminum as rapidly as with some other metals, a factor taken into account when planning welding procedures. This subject is discussed in Chapter 13. Heat dissipation from bare suspended cable is about the same for aluminum and copper conductors of the same ampacity rating.

The rate at which heat is conducted from a hot spot (the thermal-conductivity rate) affects the "burn-off" characteristic of a conductor, i.e., the amperage at which the conductor will melt and separate at a ground point. This factor is important when locating underground faults (see Chapter 12), and to some extent it is related to short-circuit ampacity rating.

The preceding discussions of general properties of aluminum conductors provide background for the design considerations described in the following chapters. They serve to explain why aluminum is such a satisfactory metal for electrical conductors, as proved by its excellent long-time operating-experience record.