Brass is an alloy metal that is made of copper and zinc. Due to brass's unique properties, which I'll go into more detail on below, it is one of the most widely used alloys. Because of its versatility, there are seemingly endless industries and products making use of this alloy.
The proportions of zinc and copper within brass can be varied, creating a range of brass with varying properties. Due to the variation in the alloy, brass properties are not universal. But, these alloys are known for being easily formed (i.e. machinability) and retaining high strength after forming. All brasses are known to be ductile—variations with lower zinc content are more ductile and variations with higher zinc content are less so. Similar to copper, brass is a poor breeding ground for bacteria. This quality makes it an ideal material for bathroom fixtures and doorknobs, as well as medical applications.
Brass is most widely used in applications that are decorative and mechanical. Due to its unique properties, which include corrosion resistance, common uses for brass include applications that require low friction. These applications can include fittings (fasteners and connectors), tools, appliance parts, and ammunition components.
From shell casings for an M-16 assault rifle to everyday use bearings and gears, brass is widely used for mechanical applications. Tools made of brass are known to have extended life and a reduced need for sharpening.
Beyond its antimicrobial properties, brass's aesthetic value makes it a popular choice for decorative applications. Its coloring can range from light gold and silver all the way to almost red.
Residential dishwasher fittings and lamp fittings are commonly made of brass, as they are both visually appealing and bacteria resistant.
If you've ever participated in a concert band, marching band, or perhaps even a symphony, you are likely very aware of the brass all around you. Trumpets, french horns, trombones, baritones, and tubas are some of the most popular brass instruments.