It's that time of year again. With temperatures continuing to drop, carolers out in force, black ice hiding everywhere and Santa Clauses around every corner, the holiday season is in full force. It's December, and with the holidays right around the corner, the Sycor team will be doing another one of our cabling fun facts. In this month's fun facts, we'll be exploring the requirements for wire and cable in space, the major weaknesses of armoured cables and when aluminum is a cost-effective alternative to the highly conductive copper conductor.
Copper is not always a more effective conductor than aluminum
1. Copper 99% of the time is a more effective solution in electrical applications than aluminum. Copper has significantly higher conductivity than aluminum, making it a more reliable solution, but that does not mean that copper is always the best product to use for cabling applications. "Conductivity in relation to cabling is not merely a function of the measure of resistivity but rather a unique combination of the size of the cable and the insulation material that is used" (Dfliq). This means in cases where extremely high voltages are used over a long distance, it becomes significantly more economical to use aluminum over traditional copper.
2. As mentioned above, copper is currently the most used conductor type on the market because of its all-around properties. The U.S ecological survey states that about 1/3 of all copper used in every part of society is recycled copper. About 75% of copper is recyclable and comes from existing applications like wire and cable, copper tools, pipes, and other highly copper-based products.
Stranded vs Solid Conductors
3. Electrical wire and cable come in a number of different constructions that are available in different sizes, conductor materials and stranding. Most applications used today require stranded conductors, which gives the misconception that there is a superior type, which isn't true. Stranded conductors are available in various constructions like the standard 7, 19, 41 and even the extremely flexible 105, but there are specific applications that require more stiff conductors.
For example, numerous box cable assemblies require the wires to stay in a single locked-in location, and if a stranded conductor were to be used, the higher level of flexibility would cause the cables to shift out of place. A solid conductor being stiffer will hold its position for extended periods without requiring any maintenance. A major downside to solid conductors is that if they are bent or flexed too much or too often, the conductor can ultimately fail, which would require the entire cable to be replaced.
4. It's a common misconception that a cables armour is water-resistant, but this is false. It cannot be emphasized enough that armour is not meant to be utilized in environments where moisture is present. Doing so will quickly lead to the destruction of the armour, which creates exposure points to the cable inside over time. This would then require the entire armoured cable to be replaced, significantly reducing the product's lifespan.
5. Another common misconception is that new power cables will last for specific periods of time, which isn't true for a few reasons. Firstly, power cables are made by many different manufacturers, and it is highly unlikely that these cables will be able to last for the same period of time. Secondly, there are many different power cables that come in varying constructions. Each cable is defined by capacity, durability, usage and other industry-specific characteristics, which can only estimate the cable's total lifespan. Finally, the last is determined by the handling and installation of the cable. If the cable is poorly installed, that cable's lifespan could be drastically reduced.
6. With the billionaire space race, it's only a matter of time before space applications are a consistent occurrence. Space X plans to be on mars by 2030 and be building one reusable starship a week. This is extremely impressive, but it does come with its challenges. One interesting fact about space is that the cables used for these applications must meet a specific set of requirements, or the application will ultimately fail. These cables must be HSCA or High-Strength Copper Alloy and be irradiated because of outgassing. Outgassing is the release of trapped gas or vapour that was previously dissolved, trapped, frozen, or absorbed in the solid. A good example of one of these products is the reliable Mil-W-22759/33.
We hope that all of our customers, readers and industry colleagues have a great holiday season. If you'd like to read some more interesting facts about cabling products or the cabling industry, check out our other fun fact blogs below. If you have any questions about wire or cable, feel free to reach out to one of our technical specialists at email@example.com. Happy Holidays!
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