What Is Copper?

Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu (from Latin: cuprum) and atomic number 29. It’s one of the first few on the periodic table, appearing right after oxygen and tin.

Copper is a malleable metal that has been used since ancient times. It was initially used by humans as a survival tool, but it also has many other purposes in industry.

It is a soft, malleable, and ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. A freshly exposed surface of pure copper has a reddish-orange color.

Copper is used as a conductor of heat and electricity, as a building material, and as a constituent of various metal alloys, such as sterling silver used in jewelry, cupronickel used to make marine hardware and coins, and constantan used in strain gauges and thermocouples.

Where Does Copper Occur?

Copper is one of the most common elements on Earth that can be found in concentrated form. It is found naturally in the Earth’s crust and can be mined from soil and rocks, or extracted from copper-containing mineral ores using a process called electrolysis.

Copper metal has been around for many thousands of years. Native copper can be found as a main mineral in basaltic lavas as well as reduced from copper compounds such as sulfides, arsenides, chlorides, and carbonates.

Copper occurs naturally in a variety of places on Earth. It is found in the Earth’s crust in minerals such as cuprite, malachite, and chalcopyrite. Copper is also found in the oceans, in the form of dissolved copper salts.

Copper may be found in a variety of minerals, including chalcocite, chalcopyrite, bornite, cuprite, malachite, and azurite. It can be found in seaweed ashes, many marine corals, human liver, and many mollusks and arthropods.

Copper, which is present in humans as a trace element, aids in the catalysis of hemoglobin production.

The largest known deposit of the mineral is a porphyry copper deposit in Chile’s Andes Mountains. Chile has become the world’s biggest copper major exporter by the early twenty-first century. Peru, China, and the United States are other big producers.

Who First Discovered Copper?

Though several copper tools and ornamental objects dating back to 9000 BCE have been uncovered, archaeological evidence shows that the ancient Mesopotamians were the first to completely exploit the capacity to extract and work with copper approximately 5000 to 6000 years ago.

Due to a lack of current metallurgical understanding, early cultures, such as the Mesopotamians, Egyptians, and Indigenous peoples in America, valued the metal primarily for its aesthetic properties, employing it, like gold and silver, to produce ornamental goods and decorations.

The earliest phases of organized copper production and usage in various civilizations have been generally dated as follows:

Mesopotamia, around 4500 BC, Egypt, at around 3500 BC, China, around 2800 BCE

Central America about 600 CE, West Africa, about the year 900 CE.

What Are Some Of The Copper Compounds?

Copper sulfate is the most noteworthy copper compound economically, it was originally known as “blue vitriol” due to its strong relationship with sulfuric acid. It is commonly used as a starting material in the production of most other copper compounds.

The global use is over 200,000 tons per year, with around 75percent used in agricultural purposes. Because of their simplicity of use or other specific features, cupric oxide, cuprous oxide, copper acetate, cupric chloride, copper oxychloride, cupric nitrate, and copper napthenate are employed preferentially for various applications.

What Are Some Of The Copper Alloys?

Copper alloys, including brass, bronze and cupronickel, can be either alloyed or formulated with other metals.

Alloys are mixtures of elements which increase their mechanical properties as well as improve their electrical and thermal conductivity at the expense of a decrease in ductility.

Often the alloy ingredients are added randomly during the metal production process and subsequently mixed during fabrication to obtain the desired properties.

There are a variety of copper alloys that have been developed over the years. Some of the most common include brass, bronze, and copper-nickel.

Each of these alloys has its own unique properties and applications. Brass, for example, is an alloy of copper and zinc. It is known for its durability and resistance to corrosion.

Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin. It is known for its strength and resistance to wear. Copper-nickel is an alloy of copper and nickel. It is known for its resistance to corrosion and its ability to withstand high temperatures.

What Are The Properties Of Copper?

Copper has several viable properties, making it perfect for a wide range of applications.

Some of the properties of copper that makes it a useful metal include;

1. Electrical conductivity.

Pure copper has a good electrical conductivity ranking it second only to silver,

Copper rapidly became a popular technique for transferring energy because it is considerably more plentiful and hence less expensive than silver.

Copper’s ductility makes it perfect for the production of wires and cables. However, the weight of copper rendered it unsuitable for overhead power lines, which are typically composed of aluminum or aluminum-coated high tension steel strands.

Copper wire is still used in situations requiring high voltage transmission where durability and energy efficiency are vital, such as cables and catenaries for trains and tram networks.

2. Thermal conductivity.

Copper is one of the best metals for thermal conduction, leading to its use in condensers, heat exchangers and radiators. This quality also makes it a popular material for cooking ware, as it transfers heat very efficiently.

The thermal conductivity of copper is largely dependent on the purity of the sample; purer samples display greater conductivity than impure ones.

3.  Machinability and ductility.

Copper is malleable and ductile, which means it can be readily machined and stretched into wire-like shapes.

Due to its ductility and malleability, copper has been used in the creation of knife blades, musical instruments, musical bells and other metal wares.

The metal’s material properties make it ideal for making gears, some of which have an eighteen-thousand-year history of design and manufacture.

Copper is also used in production of springs. Due to the metal’s light weight and softness, it can be molded into usable shapes with ease.

4. Corrosion resistance.

Copper is highly resistant to corrosion when exposed to moist air and water. Its resistance to corrosion is due to the metal’s affinity for oxygen, which forms a protective layer of patina on its surface.

Copper has good thermal and electrical conductivity, but it also has many disadvantages. For example, it deforms easily even at room temperature and pitting can occur if anodic films are formed in presence of electrolytes.

Copper’s corrosion resistance is second only to that of gold, making it a useful material for applications that require retention of shape over long periods in harsh environments.

Copper is also extremely resistant to bacteria, which make it a suitable choice for use in food production equipment and water treatment systems.

5. Antimicrobial/Biofouling resistance.

Copper is an effective antimicrobial material, which means that it can be employed in the design of surfaces designed to prevent the build-up of bacteria and other micro-organisms, such as hospital equipment, gym equipment and water storage tanks.

Copper alloys are the only metals that naturally exhibit antimicrobial properties without the addition of other compounds or treatments.

According to a study published in Environmental Science and Technology, copper is resistant to bio fouling, meaning it does not readily absorb other substances or degrade with extended use.

Acidic copper surfaces are capable of killing microbes by dissolving their cell walls. Copper is also biocidal, meaning that it prevents the growth of microbes on its surface. This quality makes it suitable for medical uses such as surgical equipment, including scalpels and gut sutures.

Applications of Copper

Copper and copper alloys may be utilized in a wide variety of applications. Among these applications are:

1. Power transmission lines.

Copper is a leading material used in the production of overhead power lines, cables and catenaries. This is because it has good resistance to corrosion and high thermal conductivity. It also has high electrical conductivity, which makes it ideal for transmission of electric energy.

2. Architectural applications.

Copper is a metal that has a long history of use in architecture. Its durability, malleability, ductility and machinability make it ideal for the fabrication of architectural articles such as windows, frames and doorways.

3. Cooking utensils.

Copper is used in the production of cookware and utensils. The metal’s resistance to corrosion makes it ideal for the transmission of heat from stovetops to pots, pans and other cooking vessels.

4. Spark plugs.

Copper is used in the design of spark plugs. It is primarily used in the production of spark plug leads.

5. Electrical wiring, cables and busbars.

Copper is used in the production of formers, busbars, terminal blocks, cable termination and electrical wiring.

6. High conductivity wires.

Copper is a material of choice in the production of high conductivity wires, as it has good electrical conductivity.

7. Electrodes.

Copper is used in the production of electrodes in electroplating, distribution boards, thermoelectric power plants and other devices.

8. Heat exchangers.

A variety of metals may be used in the production of heat exchangers, but copper is an ideal material for use in applications employing temperatures greater than 200 °C, as it has good thermal conductivity.

9. Refrigeration tubing.

Copper is used in the production of refrigeration tubing, which is a cylindrical tube that is chilled by means of an ice condenser.

10. Plumbing.

Copper is used to fabricate pipes and tubing for plumbing purposes in residential and commercial buildings.


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