Copper (Cu) is one of the most commonly used metals in various applications dating back thousands of years. Pure copper is most commonly used in electrical applications because of its superior conductivity, ductile form, and corrosion resistance. In addition, there are over 400 different Cu alloys – including brasses, bronzes, and cupronickel – used in construction, plumbing, and transportation. Because copper-based alloys are so common and are made up of various light elements, it is difficult for recyclers to accurately verify grades using old methods.


Improved analytical capabilities have been made available in copper alloy recycling through the use of on-site tools – such as handheld x-ray flourescence (XRF) analyzers. However, XRF is very limited for accurate light element analysis, can require regulatory registration/licensing, and is typically not robust enough to withstand the harsh environments of modern day recycling. A recently introduced analytical tool with much superior light element detection is the handheld Rigaku KT-100S analyzer. The KT-100S utilizes laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) and has been drop-tested with a MIL-STD 810G certification for durability. To demonstrate its performance, a number of analyses were performed on in-house certified reference materials (CRM) containing light elements, including aluminum, silicon, and beryllium. Each CRM was analyzed 10 times and the average of these readings was used to plot the given versus calculated trends for Al, Si and Be shown below in figures 1-3. Figure 4 shows the precision and accuracy of the KT-100S for two copper reference standards that contain Al, Si and Be. The standard was analyzed 10 times and the average, standard deviation and relative standard deviation (RSD) are included.




320x320 C172 Be Cu KT-100S_screen_en_2018.12.11


Copper App Note Figures 1-3Figures 1-3

KT-100S Cu App Note Figure 4Figure 4. Precision and accuracy of the KT-100S for two copper reference standards that contains Al, Si and Be.


The Rigaku KT-100S handheld LIBS analyzer for identifying light atomic number elements in copper alloys, such as aluminum bronzes, silicon bronzes, and beryllium coppers. The KT-100S also identifies all the common grades of copper, brass, bronze and most other metals and alloyed metals in an average of two seconds. Its use of LIBS technology means there are minimal regulatory licensing or registration requirements. Additionally, the KT-100S was the first handheld metal identification device certified rugged to withstand repeated drops and other environmental rigors found in harsh environments.

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Characteristics: soft, malleable, ductile, very high thermal and electrical conductivity

Use: wire and cable, electronics, electric motors, architectural applications

Chemistry: Cu 98% min, 0-1.2% Cd, 0-2% Be, 0-0.7% Te, 0-1.2% Cr, 0-1.5% Pb, 0-2.2% Sn, 0-1.2% Ni

Examples: 100 series such as 182 (CrCu), 172 (BeCu), 145 (TeCu), 162 (CdCu)



Characteristics: durable, workable, electrical and thermal conductivity

Use: door knobs, gears, hinges, musical instruments, bells, bullet jackets

Chemistry: Cu rem, 6-30% Zn, 0-0.5% Si,

Examples: 200 series such as 210, 230, 260, 270


Leaded Brass

Characteristics: machinable

Use: gun metal, marine uses

Chemistry: Cu rem, 10-40% Zn, 0.25-3.5% Pb

Examples: 300 series such as 360, 330, 340, 370


Tin Brass, Naval Brass, Arsenical Brass

Characteristics: high strength, excellent corrosion resistance

Use: screw machines, springs, marine hardware, plumbing tube, vent pipes, heat exchangers

Chemistry: Cu rem, 0.3-4% Sn, 0-1% Zn, 0-1% Pb, traces: As, Al

Examples: 400 series such as 410, 420, 430, 465


Phosphor bronze

Characteristics: no spark

Use: ship propellers, musical instruments, electrical contacts

Chemistry: Cu rem, P 0.01-0.4%, Sn 1-6%, Zn 0-4.5%, Pb 0-4.5%

Examples: 500 series such as 510, 524, 544


Al Bronze

Characteristics: no spark, corrosion resistant, tarnish resistant, biostatic

Use: coins, dental crowns, sea-water services, tools

Chemistry: Cu rem, 4-14% Al, 0-6% Fe, 0-6% Ni, 0-3% Mn, 0-0.5% Zn, 0-0.4% As

Examples: 500 series such as 610, 622, 630, 642


Si Bronze

Characteristics: no spark, good corrosion resistance

Use: bearing cages, raceways and spacers for aerospace

Chemistry: Cu rem, SI 0.8-4%, Sn 0-4%, Zn 0-1.5%, Mn 0-0.7%

Examples: 500 series such as 654, 656, 661


Mn Bronze

Characteristics: no spark, high strength

Use: gears, stressed machine parts, valve stems, marine propellers

Chemistry: Cu rem, Mn 0.05-11%, Pb 0-1%, Zn 14-40%

Examples: 600 series such as 668, 670, 676


Cu-Ni Alloy

Characteristics: excellent resistance to sea water corrosion

Use: marine applications including submarines, cryogenic applications, coins (currency), brake tubing

Chemistry: Cu rem, Ni 2-33%, Mn 0-5.5%, Zn 0-6%, Sn 0-8.5%, Pb 0-3.5%

Examples: 700 series such as 706, 715, 722, 740


Cast Copper, Cast Sn Bronze, Cast Al Bronze, Cast Be Copper, Cast Cr Copper, Cast Ni Silver

Characteristics: very variable, can have excellent machinability, good strength, corrosion resistance

Use: handles, knobs, fasteners, motor pieces, sleeve bearings, heat exchangers

Chemistry: Cu rem, Pb 0-40%, Ni 0-25%, Al 0-12%, Sn 0-5%, Si 0-5%, Zn 0-16%, Mn 0-5%, Se 0-1.2%, Bi 0-6%

Examples: 800 series such as 801, 815, 824, 834, 848, 861, 875 and 900 series such as 911, 922, 931, 964




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