There is a battle going on, but it’s not one you would have heard about in the news or learned about in a school history or social studies course. However, you may have learned about it in a science class.
It’s a battle between copper and aluminum—and one that lineworkers, including Sam Houston Electric Cooperative’s Zack Johnson, know well.
Johnson, a lineman at the co-op’s Livingston office, recently created a wire sculpture to represent this clash of metals. He calls it the Battle of Redox.
“Linemen have long been faced with the challenges and advancements today of properly securing copper and aluminum conductors together for longevity and reliability of service,” said Larry Horn, Sam Houston EC director of operations.
If copper and aluminum utility equipment make contact, oxidation can occur, leading to the formation of a hot spot, which would eventually result in a fire or melt equipment, causing an outage. The outage could be widespread, very expensive and take days to repair.
The potential for this hazard plays out throughout Sam Houston EC’s distribution system, but the co-op takes precautions to keep these metals from meeting and maintain the system’s overall health and reliability. To prevent this hazardous chemical reaction, the co-op places brass bolts or fittings between the two metals.
Johnson’s Battle of Redox symbolizes this conflict in the form of two scorpions facing each other in combat. The copper scorpion is larger than its opponent, the aluminum scorpion, because if the two metals came into direct contact, the copper would attract ions from the aluminum, in a sense becoming larger.
Johnson said the sculpture took him just a few hours to create, but it represents East Texas and the co-op to him.
Johnson donated the artwork to be auctioned at the Texas Electric Cooperatives Loss Control Conference in March along with other pieces by cooperative employees from across the Lone Star State to support the Loss Control Scholarship program. The scholarships are awarded annually to children of employees of electric cooperatives, municipal electric utilities and contractors who participate in TEC’s Loss Control program.