The research project ‘Cu-As-(Sb, Ni) systems: Determination of phase diagrams‘ is hosted by the Dipartimento di Chimica e Chimica Industriale (DCCI) at the Universitá degli Studi di Genova.  This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, grant agreement no. 101018804 (2022 to 2026).

Sulfosalt minerals, from which copper (Cu) is mined, are characterised by high concentrations of arsenic (As), nickel (Ni) and antimony (Sb). However, the properties of Cu-As-(Ni, Sb)-based alloys are poorly understood. As no phase diagrams of such ternary alloys exist, their material characteristics remain widely unknown. Funded by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme, the ASCUNISB project will focus on the physico-chemical properties of Cu mined from sulfosalt minerals. The project will build phase diagrams for Cu-As-(Ni, Sb) alloys by investigating each alloy phase and identifying unknown phases. ASCUNISB will also create a base for new applications, reduce economic and environmental costs, and deliver a database to address urgent research questions by assessing the earliest metal technologies c. 2300 BCE.


  • Build phase diagrams for Cu-As-(Ni, Sb) alloys with 1-5 wt.% of As, Sb, Ni:
    • understand initial phase formation, stability, and changes in alloys over the passage of time at different temperatures;
    • explain and predict specific material behaviour during thermomechanical treatment;
    • investigate the phases of each alloy and identify unknown phases with desirable properties;
    • understand the effects of Ni and Sb addition on pristine/parent Cu-As alloys.
  • Create a base for new applications: Cu-As based alloys have superior ductility and corrosion resistance than pure copper and other copper alloys. ASCUNISB will provide the data for Cu-As-(Ni, Sb) alloys to enable new, exciting applications in material engineering and find modern-day uses for them, and, consequently
  • Reduce economic and environmental costs of refining and pollution: through new applications of the Cu-As alloys studied, As, Sb, and/or Ni would not need to be removed from mined sulfosalt minerals;
  • Provide a database for urgent research questions in prehistory: Cu-As-(Ni, Sb) alloys are the oldest alloys. As basic data such as phase diagrams are still missing, the alloys’ behaviour and properties are still poorly understood. ASCUNISB will provide the data needed to assess the earliest metal technologies in prehistory and explain the adaption, recycling, and disregarded Cu-As alloys c. 2300 BCE.