“What if you could make aluminum more conductive—even 80% or 90% as conductive as copper? You could replace copper and that would make a massive difference because more conductive aluminum is lighter, cheaper, and more abundant,” said Keerti Kappagantula, PNNL materials scientist and co-author on the research. “That’s the big picture problem that we’re trying to solve.”
Copper vs. aluminum
Copper demand is fast outpacing its current availability, driving up its cost. Copper is a great electrical conductor—it’s used in everything from handheld electronics to underwater transmission cables that power the internet—but there’s no escaping the fact that copper is becoming less available and more expensive. These challenges are only expected to get worse with the rising number of electric vehicles (EVs), which need twice as much copper as traditional vehicles. Plus, copper is heavy, which drives down EV efficiency.