We explain what copper is and what are the properties of this element. In addition, its various uses and applications.

Copper is a bright, reddish transition metal.

What is copper?

Copper is a chemical element metal represented by the symbol Cu (its name comes from the Latin cuprum, in turn from the Greek kypros) and of atomic number 29, which composes together with gold, silver and roentgenium the so-called copper family of the Periodic table of the chemical elements.

Copper is a transition metal, bright and reddish in color, characterized by being one of the best known conductors of the electricity (after silver). If we add to this its lightness, high malleability, ductility and economic price, we will have one of the most suitable elements for the manufacture of tools, electrical and electronic parts, and many other devices for industrial uses.

This is why copper was one of the first elements to be used by the human being prehistoric, which discovered its usefulness in alloy with tin, so much so that it is called Copper Age to the Chalcolithic or Eneolithic period (ranging from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age) of human history.

Copper is an extremely abundant element in nature, which plays a vital role in the photosynthetic processes of the plants, as well as in the cellular, nervous, bone and immune maintenance in the Vertebrate animals.

It is found in food like seafood and crustaceans, legumes, nuts or organ meats, so its dietary deficiency (which causes the so-called Wilson's disease) is not usually common.

Properties of copper

Copper is characterized by being one of the best conductors of electricity.

Copper has the following physicochemical properties:

  • It has a bright reddish color, except in alloys with other metals. When exposed to air, appears salmon red, until a layer of cuprous oxide (Cu2O) of color purplish. It can eventually blacken as cupric oxide (CuO) is formed.
  • It has a huge Thermal conductivity Y electric, only surpassed by silver (Ag). It is also resistant to corrosion Yet the oxidation. Does not respond well to forces or magnetic fields (it is diamagnetic).
  • It is inexpensive and can be recycled indefinitely. It is extremely ductile and malleable, so it can be easily machined to make thin sheets or threads as it is a soft metal.
  • When exposed for a long time to humidity, forms an impermeable layer of cupric carbonate (CuCO3) of greenish color, which is extremely toxic. It also forms a patina called verdigris (a mixture of copper acetates) that usually covers statues and is highly poisonous.
  • Despite being a trace mineral necessary for life, excessive intake of copper can also lead to internal damage and death.

Uses and applications of copper

Copper is the third most consumed metal in the world today, after iron and aluminum, since its applications in the electrical, electronic and steel industries are very numerous. Some of the most common uses are:

  • Electrical, electronics and telecommunications. Copper is used as an electrical conductor in the manufacture of electrical and coaxial cables, as well as inside electrical generators, motors, and transformers. In addition, integrated circuits and many components of contemporary computer systems require copper to manufacture.
  • Transport. Many motor vehicles require copper for their parts and spare parts, such as radiators, brakes and bearings, in addition to the necessary wiring for electrical components. It is also used in alloys to make parts of the hull of ships.
  • Manufacture of coins. Most of the world's currencies are made up of copper in various alloys with nickel, tin, and other metals, such as aluminum or bronze.
  • Construction and decoration. Due to their resistance to corrosion, copper and brass are used in place of traditional lead in most pipes. Water, in both residential, industrial or commercial complexes. This is because the lead is harmful to the Health and copper is a common architectural material. It is also used for doorknobs, for statues in squares, for church bells and for a wide segment of the construction sector.
  • Alloys and by-products. Copper also serves as an input in obtaining other more specific metals, such as brass (Cu + Zn), bronze (Cu + Sn), nickel silver (Cu + Ni + Zn), or in the production of wire rod, of electric batteries, etc.
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