3 Types of Metal Coatings for Electrical Contacts

Breakers, switches, and other forms of electric applications contain electrical contacts.These are tiny parts that are responsible for controlling the flow of electricity. Energy travels from one end to another when they meet halfway. When this happens, it means that the power circuit is closed. If it’s open, then the pair is disconnected, and the current is cut. Air, oil, or any other insulation providing substance can keep the two parts separated.

However, the electrical flow isn’t just managed by whether the contacts are touching; its tips dictate how much voltage it can handle and how long the part can last. Here are 3 metals commonly used as a coating.


As a precious metal, gold is highly resistant to corrosion.This means that it can withstand oxidation or the altering of a substance due to the presence of oxygen. Because it doesn’t easily degrade like other metals, it stays rust-free and in good condition longer. This resistance to damage means that there isn’t much that can interfere with its performance, making it highly conductive.

Gold is also very malleable, making it possible to apply a very thin layer onto the contact. Excessive heat and extreme temperatures don’t negatively impact this durable material. All of these properties make it the perfect choice for low voltage and current applications. Mobile phones, tablets, personal computers, and other gadgets make use of this coating.


Silver is another valuable resource used, with many advantages. First, it’s soft and isn’t prone to sticking. The two contacts can completely touch one another, lowering resistance and increasing conductivity. Second, it’s lightweight and doesn’theateasily, making it perfect for any application. Third, it’s more affordable than gold.

All of theseproperties above make silver one of the most used metals by any electrical contact manufacturer. It comes in many varieties, like:

  • silver tungsten carbide
  • silver graphite
  • silver nickel
  • silver molybdenum

You can find these in semiconductors, batteries, and generators. Even electric musical instruments make use of it.


Similar to silver, tin is a more affordable alternative to gold. However, this metal easily reacts to air, and rust can form on it in a very short amount of time. But, when used with great care, it can still be a good option. Wiping away the oxide film can help maintain its conductive abilities. Increasing the amount of force placed on the mating contactscan also help it work smoothly.

Because of itscorrosion resistant qualities in water, tin-plated contacts areideal forthe marine industry. Bearings, spade terminals, and switchgearin waterborne vessels tend to befabricated with this metal.

Those are just 3 of the many metals that can be used as finishes for electrical contacts. Get in touch with a company that sells these partstoday to help bring your project to life.