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In order to generate electricity is copper required?

  1. Jul 30, 2014 #1
    Copper conducts electricity and so does other metals like silver. Now a new material is coming to play which is graphene, But I was wondering in order to generate electricity must it be in copper coils? Can it be in silver coils, graphene coils?

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  3. Jul 30, 2014 #2


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    There's no need for copper to be involved. Any conductor will do in a generator. The reason copper is used is that it's cheap and quite conductive. Silver is a little bit more conductive, but it's much more expensive as well as heavier.
  4. Jul 30, 2014 #3

    So a silver coils can generate electricity better then copper. What would be the best metal?
  5. Jul 30, 2014 #4


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    There is a lot of vibration in a generator. You don't want to use a material for the coils that is any more brittle, or that could compromise the generator's reliability.

    I don't know how silver compares.
  6. Jul 30, 2014 #5


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    This is an engineering matter and it's all based on compromise. The almost universal choice of a material indicates that it is suitable in more than just one respect - not too expensive, almost strong enough, low enough resistance, fairly corrosion free etc. etc. In fact, high purity copper is not used for all cables. It is just not strong enough to support its own weight for overhead HV cables, for instance. For a while, when copper prices were exceptionally high, aluminium was used for domestic wiring (and stainless steel for plumbing).

    Copper does corrode a bit on its surface, which is why PC board and other connectors are plated with more expensive metals (gold, rhodium etc.).

    Graphene may well be used for many applications in the future. T present, it is a lot less convenient at the moment, for everyday use, I think. Copper may increase in price and things may change sooner than you think.
  7. Aug 1, 2014 #6
    Any conductor will do. As a matter of fact, the high voltage power transmission lines that one sees hanging from the tall towers are made of aluminum, not copper--aluminum being lighter and cheaper than copper.
  8. Aug 1, 2014 #7


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    The conductivity and resistivity of silver and copper are almost identical, but the price of silver is currently more than 100 times that of copper.

    During WWII, copper was in extremely short supply in the US in 1942. The Manhattan Project, which was charged with building the first atomic bomb, desperately needed a large amount of copper to fabricate electromagnets which were used to separate uranium isotopes. When no source of copper could be readily found, the US Army approached the Treasury about borrowing some of its silver stockpile, to be used instead of copper. The Treasury secretary reluctantly agreed, and eventually more than 14,000 tons of silver were put to work in electromagnets for the duration. The last of the silver was returned to the Treasury eventually in 1970, after the equipment which used it was dismantled.

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