Brass is a binary alloy composed of copper and zinc that has been produced for millennia and is valued for its workability, hardness, corrosion resistance and attractive appearance.
The exact properties of different brasses depend on the composition of the brass alloy, particularly the copper-zinc ratio.
In general, however, all brasses are valued for their machinability or the ease with which the metal can be formed into desired shapes and forms while retaining high strength.
While there are differences between brasses with high and low zinc contents, all brasses are considered malleable and ductile (low zinc brasses more so). Due to its low melting point, brass can also be cast relatively easily. However, for casting applications, a high zinc content is usually preferred.
Brasses with a lower zinc content can be easily cold worked, welded and brazed. A high copper content also allows the metal to form a protective oxide layer (patina) on its surface that guards against further corrosion, a valuable property in applications that expose the metal to moisture and weathering.
The metal has both good heat and electrical conductivity (its electrical conductivity can be from 23% to 44% that of pure copper), and it is wear and spark resistant.
Like copper, its bacteriostatic properties have resulted in its use in bathroom fixtures and healthcare facilities.
Brass is considered a low friction and non-magnetic alloy, while its acoustic properties have resulted in its use in many 'brass band' musical instruments. Artists and architects value the metal's aesthetic properties, as it can be produced in a range of colors, from deep red to golden yellow.
'Brass' is a generic term that refers to a wide range of copper-zinc alloys.
In fact, there are over 60 different types of brass specified by EN (European Norm) Standards. These alloys can have a wide range of different compositions depending upon the properties required for a particular application.
Brass's valuable properties and relative ease of production have made it one of the most widely used alloys. Compiling a complete list of all of brass' applications would be a colossal task, but to get an idea of industries and the types of products in which brass is found we can categorize and summarize some end-uses based on the grade of brass used: