Over the last 50 years, the busbar’s evolution has allowed its usage to exceed that of hard-wired power distribution. Over time demand for aluminum busbar vs. copper has decreased significantly, especially in industrial applications. 

Busbar Conductivity

The conductivity of the aluminum busbar depends on the alloy and the temperature. The conductivity of pure aluminum is approximately 65.0% of IACS (International Annealed Copper Standard).

Aluminum has 62% the conductivity of copper, which normally leads engineers to disregard aluminum as a viable conductor for busbar trunking systems. As a result, a much larger size of conductor will be required to match the current carrying capacity of a copper conductor.

Tai Sin Busbar Trunking System

However, aluminum can be as much as 70% lighter than copper. Busbar Trunking System will still weigh significantly less than a copper system of equal conductance. The reduced weight of aluminum conductors can help to save costs in many areas:

  • Require fewer supports to secure Busbar Trunking System
  • Less manpower required for installation
  • Reduce transportation costs.

Similarly, when you compare conductivity by weight, you will find that aluminum is actually 50% more conductive per kg.

Granted, the larger overall dimensions of an aluminum busbar trunking system may be restrictive in certain applications such as small space structure or underfloor applications. However, if size is not an issue for your specification, but weight restrictions do apply, aluminum may be the best choice to maximize conductivity whilst minimizing cost.

Busbar Strength

Some claim that the aluminum busbar cannot withstand both electromechanical stresses and the copper busbar. Quality aluminum has a lot of tensile strength to withstand thermal expansion strain.

Depending on the alloying agent used, aluminum’s strength will vary from dead soft to mild steel.

Aluminium has a density around 1/3 that of steel or copper making it one of the lightest commercially available metals in the market.

Even pure aluminium doesn’t have a high tensile strength, an addition of alloying elements like manganese, silicon, copper can increase the tensile strength and produce an alloy with properties tailored to particular applications.

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Busbar Resistance

When considered on volume, copper outperforms aluminum. Boasting a lower electrical resistance, lower power loss, lower voltage drop and higher ampacity. All of these contribute to the electrical efficiency of the busbar trunking system.

However, When considered on weight, aluminum has higher electrically efficiency. Again, this can be attributed to aluminum having a density 70% lower than copper, making it the perfect choice where Busbar Trunking System sizing is a non-issue.

When considered on volume, copper outperforms aluminum. Boasting a lower electrical resistance, lower power loss, lower voltage drop and higher ampacity. All of these contribute to the electrical efficiency of the busbar trunking system.

The mechanical resistance of high-quality high-strength aluminum can be up to 530 Newton/mm². Aluminum is fatigue-resistant and corrosion-resistant. Aluminum also provides quick removal of corrosion with simple stripping.

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Busbar Cost

The price of aluminum is much more stable than copper, heavily influenced by consumer demand amongst other political and economic factors. According to the London Metal Exchange, the price ratio of copper to aluminum is currently over 3:1, interpreting a notable cost difference.

As a result, the aluminum busbar’s cost can be considerably lower than the cost of the copper busbar. Its lightweight properties may provide substantial cost savings on their own in managing costs. Aluminum also provides high recyclability, making it much less likely to suffer demand volatility or supply shortages. That’s why aluminum allows specifiers and contractors to compile cost forecasts with more accuracy and has consistently provided huge project cost savings passed on from the busbar manufacturers. This presents a huge advantage in today’s highly competitive power distribution market where cost has become a key concern for all parties involved.

Environmental sustainability

Whilst both aluminum and copper are 100% recyclable, differences in how each metal is recycled and mined/extracted impact the environmental sustainability.

When considered on a percentage basis, aluminum is the most recycled industrial metal with 75% of aluminum ever produced still in use today. For copper, this number is 65%. Similarly, the recycling process for aluminum uses only 5% of the energy required for primary production and releases only 5% of the associated emissions. Again, although copper can also be recycled at a reduced environmental cost, the process is different, using 15% of the energy required to mine and extract the same copper. With this in mind, aluminum is arguably a more sustainable option for busbar trunking conductors as it is less reliant on non-eco mining and extraction processes and can its recycling processes produce less energy waste.