Nowhere is material science so necessary as in the Sweet Division 16- electrical. Dominated by copper and aluminum we discover elemental properties as we harness these metals to conduct electricity. Copper is more expensive these days (it wasn’t always so, Napoleon dined with aluminum cutlery, then more expensive than gold- a fascinating book for those geeks among us: Napoleon’s Buttons describing how inferior metal buttons contributed to the defeat of the French attack of Russia), so creative types look to aluminum as a substitute. Reminds me of a conversation with a specifier who adamantly refused to use the words “or equal” since equality meant identical. Good sense. The areas we get into problems:
- Different thermal expansion can undo mechanical connections.
- Oxidation increases contact resistance, produces heat and aggravates the thermal expansion effects.
- Galvanic potential and accelerated corrosion in presence of good old sodium chloride: a.k.a. salt spray and water.
Never use aluminum wiring without planning for it in terms of connectors and corrosion inhibitors. Anything else will cause a fire, sooner or later.