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Can anyone tell me what kind of metal is used in electronics to make wires going in/out to the elements? Can longer of this metal wire be found anywhere? Actually I am looking for sth like copper wire but in silver colour. What's its name?


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Tinned Cu wire. – Andy aka Jun 21 '14 at 13:28
up vote 3 down vote accepted

You can buy rolls of tinned copper wire, as Andy says in his comment, and many resistors (especially precision types) still use tinned electrolytic copper leadwires.

However, in modern times copper prices have spiked,

enter image description here

and most leaded parts are cheap commodity items, so tin plated copper-clad steel wire has been used in many through-hole parts. You can tell the difference with a magnet. If it's copper wire, the leadwire itself will be non-magnetic (the end caps may be magnetic). Brass was once used for the end caps, but tin prices spiked.. so they're generally steel as well. Steel wire is worse in every way except cost- higher thermolectric effects, lower thermal conductivity etc. so its use would be confined to low cost products rather than precision resistors.

enter image description here

Buying tin-plated copper-clad steel wire in relatively small quantity may prove more difficult, most distributors still carry the tinned copper wire (at insanely high prices compared to what a resistor factor would be willing to pay), and the makers of the commodity wire may want a minimum order of around a metric ton.

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Just to clarify: "tinned electrolytic copper lead wires", by "lead" you are not referring to the element, right? You're talking about this definition: "a wire that conveys electric current from a source to an appliance, or that connects two points of a circuit together." – horta Jun 21 '14 at 15:21
@horta Yes, leadwires, not Pb wires. The lead wires that led to the LED were made of lead. Gawk. You can still get lead wires plated with tin-lead (Sn-Pb) solder, but most are Sn plated. – Spehro Pefhany Jun 21 '14 at 15:24
Iron content goes back a lot further than 2005/2006. I remember a certain amount of surprise in the 1980s that a magnet would pick up most resistor leads... – Brian Drummond Jun 21 '14 at 17:23
@BrianDrummond The 1980s spike seemed pretty big at the time too. Maybe it should be plotted on a log inflation-adjusted scale. I remember way back Philips 5% resistors actually had very thin gold (actual gold) flash on the leads. – Spehro Pefhany Jun 21 '14 at 17:42
@BrianDrummond It was 1970s when they tried to replace Cu house wiring with Al in North America (due to high Cu prices). A terrible fiasco for homeowners. faqs.org/faqs/electrical-wiring/part2/section-16.html – Spehro Pefhany Jun 21 '14 at 18:30

There is no one specific metal used. It varies from manufacturer to manufacturer and by age. The general principle is the same though.

Most are either tinned copper, tinned aluminium, or one of many alloys, using copper, zinc, nickle, tin, etc. Some chips use FeNi42, a form of "invar" according to Wikipedia.

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These days, most lead wires are made from tinned copper-plated steel, and the single strand tinned copper wire available on spools is generally called buss wire.

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