Failure of Copper Alloy C27000 Innercooler Tubes for Air Compressors Because of Dezincification
After about 17 years in service, copper alloy C27000 (yellow brass, 65% Cu) innercooler tubes in an air compressor began leaking cooling water, causing failure and requiring replacement. The tubes were 19 mm in diam and had a wall thickness of 1.3 mm (0.050 in.). The cooling water that flowed through the tubes was generally sanitary (chlorinated) well water; however, treated recirculating water was sometimes used. Analysis (visual inspection, 9x and 75x unetched micrographs, and spectrochemical analysis) showed a thick uniform layer of porous, brittle copper on the inner surface of the tube, extending to a depth of about 0.25 mm (0.010 in.) into the metal, plug-type dezincification extending somewhat deeper into the metal. This supported the conclusion that failure of the tubes was the result of the use of an uninhibited brass that has a high zinc content and therefore is readily susceptible to dezincification. Recommendations included replacing the material with copper alloy C68700 (arsenical aluminum brass), which contains 0.02 to 0.06% As and is highly resistant to dezincification. Copper alloy C44300 (inhibited admiralty metal) could be an alternative selection for this application; however, this alloy is not as resistant to impingement attack as copper alloy C68700.