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Located in the same chemical family as copper and aluminum, beryllium has a gray metallic appearance. It is used industrially as pure metal and in alloys with copper, nickel, or niobium. Beryllium alloys are used in nuclear and energy research to effectively moderate neutrons in fusion reactors, particle physics equipment, and X-ray equipment, as well as to provide strength and conductivity in high-speed integrated circuits.
In its elemental form, beryllium is brittle and soft. However, in its metallurgical state, beryllium has high strength and hardness. It is also relatively lightweight and has a good thermal conductivity. Beryllium is produced as a raw material for industry in three forms: copper-beryllium alloys, beryllium metal, and beryllia ceramics.
Copper-beryllium alloys are primarily used in bushings and bearings. They have excellent wear resistance and corrosion resistance, particularly at elevated temperatures. Despite the presence of beryllium, copper-beryllium alloys do not exhibit any special health hazards to workers.
One of the most common alloys of this type is nickel beryllium, known by the trade name Alloy 360. The UNS number is N00360. Nickel beryllium has the lowest ductility among all wrought nickels, but it combines mechanical strength with outstanding electrical conductivity.
The present invention relates to nickel beryllium alloy compositions with improved corrosion and hardness characteristics relative to known alloys. The alloys include from about 1.5% to about 5% by weight beryllium (Be); from about 0.4% to about 6.0% by weight niobium (Nb); and about 88% to about 93% by weight of nickel (Ni). In some embodiments, the alloys may optionally contain up to about 2% by weight of chromium (Cr). The alloys have an excellent combination of toughness and hardness and can operate at elevated temperature ranges.