Which Metal Is Used in Underground Cable?

When it comes to selecting materials for underground cables, copper (Cu) and aluminum (Al) are the predominant choices due to their excellent electrical conductivity. Although silver is the best conductor, copper takes the lead, followed by aluminum, with gold surprisingly ranking third.

Conductivity Comparison: Copper vs. Aluminium

Copper exhibits approximately 1.64 times higher electrical conductivity than aluminum. This means that copper allows for more efficient transmission of electrical current due to its lower resistance, making it a preferred choice in many applications.

Weight and Cost Considerations

Beyond conductivity, weight and cost play significant roles in the selection process for underground cables.

  • Weight: Copper is approximately three times heavier than aluminum. This weight disparity can impact various aspects of the cable system, including installation, handling, and overall infrastructure requirements.
  • Cost: While copper offers superior conductivity, it tends to be more expensive than aluminum. Copper prices are subject to substantial fluctuations, and there have been instances in the past century when copper was up to five times costlier than aluminum. These price variations influence the overall cost of cable installations and affect decision-making in material selection.

Choosing the Optimal Solution

Determining the optimal material for underground cables involves striking a balance between conductivity, weight, and cost considerations. Engineers and industry professionals carefully evaluate project requirements, budget constraints, and market conditions to make informed decisions.

By assessing factors such as the specific application, desired performance, installation logistics, and available budget, experts can select the most suitable material—copper or aluminum—for underground cable installations. This careful evaluation ensures an efficient and cost-effective design that meets the project’s electrical needs while accounting for practical considerations.

This post was written by Justin Tidd, Director at Becker Mining Communications! For over 15 years, Becker Communications has been the industry’s leader in increasingly more sophisticated electrical mining communication systems. As they expanded into surface mining, railroads, and tunneling they added wireless communication systems, handheld radios, tagging and tracking systems, as well as gas monitoring.

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