Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. While it is not a natural metal and must be created through alloying metals together, brass has some properties that make it a good choice for many different products today.
In its pure form, brass is a combination of copper and zinc, but there are some benefits to adding other metals into the mix for specific uses. Brass is corrosion resistant to a point and strong enough to stand up to many different conditions, including use in water and harsh environments.
While brass is durable, it is malleable enough to be cold-shaped and is easy to machine with modern tools. In some situations, a small amount of lead is added to the brass to allow easier machining and more flexibility. It is vital that the lead content be kept low to avoid problems with lead contamination when people are handling the brass.
Brass can be used in many ways, and polishing it to a shine is not difficult. Like copper, the outside of the brass may form a layer of tarnish if it is not maintained, but that layer can help lock out moisture and further protect the brass under it, and it can have an appealing look to some people.
It is not uncommon for people to recycle brass, and scrap yards often send it along to smelters that can remelt the material and cast it into blocks or ingots for manufacturers that use brass in their products. The combination of copper and zinc makes brass a nonferrous alloy and nonmagnetic, so it is easy to sort from steel and other ferrous metals during recycling.
The heat and electrical conductivity of brass is good because of the copper base, and it can be made into nearly any component required to do that job. Electrical connections that need to withstand more heat often use brass because the material would have to get very hot to fail. While these properties are not good in every situation, high voltage connections and other points that need heat resistance benefit from brass over softer metals like silver or gold.
Heat conduction for brass in applications like water cooling is less effective than for copper. It is less commonly used in water heating or cooling, but brass is selected for the fittings on water cooling or heating systems because it can withstand higher temperatures and is durable enough to reduce maintenance requirements and extend the product's life. If the water coming in contact with the brass is salt water, adding a small amount of aluminum to the alloy can increase the corrosion resistance and further protect the brass components.