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Muntz metal is a brass alloy invented in the 19th century. A combination of copper and zinc, it was cheaper than traditional copper and began finding uses in many industries, notably shipping. Its light weight and durability has made it one of the most popular alloys in history.
Muntz metal was developed as an alternative to expensive, heavy copper. It is comprised of about 60 percent copper and about 40 percent zinc, with a small amount of iron. The finished product actually is considered a form of brass, but it has maintained its name.
George Fredrick Muntz invented the copper zinc hybrid in 1832 in Birmingham, England. Muntz moved his operations to an ironworks and began producing the metal after it became popular for a variety of shipping purposes. At that time, it cost two-thirds as much as copper but proved to be just as strong and reliable. His company produced several thousand tons of Muntz metal during its peak in the 1840s. His patent expired in 1846, and the alloy began being produced by a variety of competitors.
Muntz metal brass is produced by a unique process of blending the metals together at different times. The copper is melted first in a reverberatory furnace, and the zinc is infused second. The hot, viscous liquid is drained into clay-lined pans to be ladled into molds. The alloy then cools in iron ingot molds before it is formed into its final state, usually a thin sheet or a bolt. After the metal is dipped in a solution of weak sulfuric acid and washed with water, it is ready for use.
Muntz metal can be used for anything that copper is used for, but the shipping industry has accepted this alloy more than any other. In the 1800s, it first gained popularity as an alternative to copper for lining hulls on boats. It was discovered that a sheet of this metal also could be wrapped around the piles of piers because it would not corrode as quickly as copper. Muntz metals still are in use today and are most commonly used in bolts because they are inexpensive and very strong.
George Muntz's creation has been a staple of the manufacturing industry for almost 200 years because of its cost and durability. It has found success in the shipping and bolt manufacturing industries as an alternative to copper. Muntz metal is an alloy that is used by builders around the world.