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Belden AV's Defense of Tinned Copper

by Paige Looney on May 22, 2015

Ever wonder why some cables use bare copper conductors and others are tinned copper? Or in what circumstances you would use tinned copper instead of bare copper? You're not the only one! In a recent Belden blog post, Steve Lampen detailed the differences between the two, when you should use tinned copper cables or bare copper in AV installations, along with some of the advantages of each. Here's an excerpt from that blog post:


Oxidized Copper Statue of LibertyI spend a lot of time in the fancy cable section of Belden. These are cables for high-frequency applications, such as digital video coax, or 10-gigabit data cables. These cables all use bare copper conductors. On the other hand, if you look at the Belden catalog from the 50,000 foot view, you will see a whole lot of cables we make use tinned copper. If you're an ancient engineer or installer (like me) you came from a time when tinned copper conductors were pretty much everything. Products like 8451 and 9451 and almost any analog audio cables are all tinned copper. Go back to the coax cables from long ago, and many of them are tinned copper. So what happened? And why is Lampen bringing up this issue now? Very simple. Belden has brought out a line of cables that are all tinned copper.


Tinned copper is an easy and effective way of keeping a copper conductor from tarnishing, from becoming oxidized. You've probably seen copper when it is oxidized. It turns green. The Statue of Liberty is a famous example of copper oxidation. The real problem is the fact that this green copper oxide is a semiconductor. This is bad news on top of a really good conductor like copper. There are two ways to prevent copper oxide. One is to put something over the metal to prevent air from reaching it. No air, no oxide, no corrosion. However, if you strip off this layer (usually plastic) that leaves the conductor in contact with air and in danger of oxidizing. Then you might have to use a connector that also seals out air. Soldering wires helps seal in the copper. Other connectors, such as many data connections, are "insulation displacement". This only makes contact in one specific place on the wire and the wire on either side is still covered with plastic insulation. The other way to prevent copper oxide is to put a layer of tin on the conductor. Then, even with the insulation stripped away, the air is much less likely to get to the copper and cause oxide to form.

Click here to read the rest of the blog post.

Regardless of your signal and frequency, Accu-Tech can help you find the right Belden AV cables for your facility or job site. For more information on Belden AV solutions, please contact your local Accu-Tech representative.

Topics: copper cabling Belden AV

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