Design and material selection form the crux of an engineering task, and the same holds true when choosing the appropriate springs. In this comprehensive analysis, we will explore two widely used materials: phosphor bronze and Inconel. We will understand their properties, use cases, and advantages and disadvantages in detail.

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Springs have diverse uses in engineering due to their ability to store potential energy and release it as kinetic energy. Material selection can profoundly impact the efficiency, performance, and longevity of a spring. In this regard, we shall examine two popular materials: phosphor bronze and Inconel.

Phosphor Bronze Springs

Material Overview

Phosphor bronze is an alloy of copper with 0.5-11% of tin and 0.01-0.35% phosphorus. The inclusion of tin improves the corrosion resistance and strength of copper, while the phosphorus increases wear resistance and stiffness.

Mechanical Properties

Phosphor bronze springs have high fatigue resistance and excellent elasticity. They showcase good corrosion resistance, especially to salt water, and have an excellent performance in elevated temperatures (up to 200°C).

Key Advantages

  1. Good Conductivity: Phosphor bronze has superior electrical and thermal conductivity, making it suitable for electronic and electrical applications.
  2. Corrosion Resistance: It exhibits strong resistance to corrosion in marine and industrial environments.
  3. Excellent Formability: It is relatively easy to form and shape, making it ideal for complex spring designs.

Key Disadvantages

  1. Cost: The alloy is more expensive than common materials like stainless steel or carbon steel.
  2. Lower Temperature Resistance: Its properties may degrade at extremely high temperatures.

Inconel Springs

Material Overview

Inconel is a family of superalloys characterized by high resistance to corrosion and oxidation, especially in extreme environments. These alloys consist of nickel as the predominant element, but also contain chromium, iron, and other metals.

Mechanical Properties

Inconel springs maintain their strength over a wide temperature range, from sub-zero to extremely high temperatures (up to 1000°C). This material is extremely resistant to pressure and corrosion, even in severe conditions.

Key Advantages

  1. High-Temperature Resistance: Inconel springs are ideal for environments with extreme heat.
  2. Excellent Strength: They offer high yield strength, even at elevated temperatures.
  3. Corrosion and Oxidation Resistance: They resist corrosion, oxidation, and sulfidation, making them perfect for harsh environments.

Key Disadvantages

  1. Cost: Inconel is significantly more expensive than most other materials.
  2. Machinability: Inconel is tough to machine due to its high work hardening rate.

Comparison and Applications

Understanding the differences between these two materials is crucial to optimizing spring design. While phosphor bronze is best used in applications where corrosion resistance and conductivity are paramount, Inconel excels in high-temperature and extreme environments.

Phosphor bronze springs, with their superior conductivity and formability, are excellent choices for electrical contacts and switches, marine applications

, and in instruments where high cycle life, resistance to fatigue, and resistance to corrosion are desired.

In contrast, Inconel springs thrive in high-temperature applications such as gas turbines, jet engines, nuclear reactors, and heat treating equipment. They can also be used in corrosive environments like chemical processing and marine applications.


Both phosphor bronze and Inconel springs have unique properties that make them suitable for different applications. Phosphor bronze is a great choice for corrosion resistance, electrical conductivity, and formability, whereas Inconel is perfect for high temperature and harsh environments. Material selection should always be based on a detailed analysis of the specific requirements of the application.

Remember, design and material choice are key to maximizing spring functionality and life cycle. Understanding the nature of the application, the environmental conditions, and the material properties is fundamental to making the right choice.