In my world, zinc is useful as an anti-magic material. This ability manifested shortly after the discovery of magic, and now zinc will erode and decay when exposed to magic, dissipating into nothingness as it disperses the magical effects directed at it. This makes zinc more valuable than gold in the economy of my world. Magic users are a minority, and otherwise, the world is technologically and socially similar our own. Zinc alloys that are exposed to magic develop pockmarks and abscesses as the zinc disappears, leaving only the other metals. even simple brass machinery, like gears in a watch, or zippers on clothing will be rendered useless by exposure to magic.

Because zinc is so much more expensive, brass is now used mostly as anti-magic armor or melted down for zinc.

Is there a different material or alloy that could replace brass in most of its modern day applications?

this question is related to Zinc is a precious metal. What alloys are no longer practical?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Just out of curiosity, do your magicians have issues with zinc deficiency? $\endgroup$ – Mike Nichols Feb 21 '17 at 20:39
  • $\begingroup$ Phosphor Bronze works even better as a bearing material compared to Brass and Aluminium is a pretty good cost-comparable alternative for most other scenarios. You can even alloy Copper and Aluminium to make a golden alloy that looks much like Brass and shares many of it's properties for applications that need to look like Brass (Bronze has a different colour to Brass). $\endgroup$ – Samwise Feb 22 '17 at 2:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There's a big secondary issue here, and that's if Zinc dissipates on contact with Magic, then just about every other steel structure now no longer has much in the way of a reliable corrosion resistance. Seeing as everything from skyscrapers to road signs uses Zinc as a corrosion barrier, that's ALL going to need replacing (at huge cost). Would you trust a 100 story tall building that may or may not be full of rust because someone performed Magic there some time ago? $\endgroup$ – Samwise Feb 22 '17 at 3:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Mike_Nichols living beings are able to passively resist most magical side effects by way of generating a field that maintains normal reality. $\endgroup$ – Jonathan Feb 23 '17 at 23:48
  • $\begingroup$ @samwise Magic use is rare enough that these issues are generally shrugged off as future problems. In some cases the reclaimed zinc may offset the costs of redesign. $\endgroup$ – Jonathan Feb 23 '17 at 23:58

Brass is a fairly versatile material with reasonable strength and decent corrosion resistance. It is also quite easy to work, it can be cast, is easy to cut and machine and is ductile enough to be cold worked quite heavily (eg drawing cartridge cases). So it's most common applications are things which require good dimensional accuracy, corrosion resistance and moderate strength such as gas and water pipe fittings.

Bronze is closely related to brass, being an alloy of copper and tin with a wide range of different grades which may also contain phosphorus, silicone, aluminium, lead.

Bronze is a pretty versatile material and depending on the specific alloy it can be cast, machined, welded and cold formed and has reasonable tensile strength, hardness and wear properties.

It tends to be quite expensive largely because of the price of copper and tin.

Aluminium alloys are also a potential substitute for brass. It does require industrial scale electrolysis to extract ( a lot of aluminium smelting is done close to hydroelectric dams) but if the technology base can provide a local source of abundant and reasonably cheap electricity then it is fairly cheap to produce. The main limitation of aluminium is that it can't really produce alloys with high hardness so it tends to be less useful for wear critical applications.

Another option is steel, again available in a wide variety of grades for different purposes.

Finally a lot of the traditional applications which used brass now use various engineering plastics and composites.

  • $\begingroup$ I've heard people say that aluminum is better thought of as "Frozen electricity" than as an extracted mineral. They're not wrong. Otherwise its a great substitute for brass. Much more brittle and harder to work though; any old-timers might have strong opinions on it. $\endgroup$ – fectin Feb 22 '17 at 1:06
  • $\begingroup$ Historically, aluminum actually replaced brass and bronze in a lot of applications. Also, aluminum can be hard anodized, which makes it suitable for high wear (in some cases). $\endgroup$ – ikrase Feb 22 '17 at 5:48
  • $\begingroup$ I think you want silicon not silicone. $\endgroup$ – intrepidhero Feb 22 '17 at 16:27

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.