From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
) is a chemical element
with the symbol Cu
) and atomic number
29. It is a ductile metal
with excellent electrical conductivity
. Copper is rather supple in its pure state and has a pinkish luster which is (beside gold
) unusual for metals, which are normally silvery white. It is used as a heat conductor, an electrical conductor, as a building material and as a constituent of various metal alloys
Copper is an essential trace nutrient to all high plants and animals. In animals, including humans, it is found primarily in the bloodstream
, as a co-factor
in various enzymes
and in copper-based pigments
. However, in sufficient amounts, copper can be poisonous and even fatal to organisms.
Copper has played a significant part in the history of mankind, which has used the easily accessible uncompounded metal for thousands of years. Evidence has been preserved from several early civilizations of the use of copper. In the Roman era, copper was principally mined on Cyprus
, hence the origin of the name of the metal as Cyprium, "metal of Cyprus", later shortened to Cuprum.
A number of countries, such as Chile
and the United States
, still have sizable reserves of the metal which are extracted through large open pit mines. However, like tin
, there may be insufficient reserves to sustain current rates of consumption. High demand relative to supply caused a price spike in the 2000s.
Copper has a significant presence as a decorative metal art. It can also be used as an anti-germ surface that can add to the anti-bacterial and antimicrobial features of buildings such as hospitals.
Copper, as native copper
, is one of the few metals to naturally occur as an un-compounded mineral. Copper was known to some of the oldest civilizations on record, and has a history of use that is at least 10,000 years old. No one knows exactly when copper was first discovered, but earliest estimates place this event around 9000 BC in the Middle East
. A copper pendant was found in what is now northern Iraq
that dates to 8700 BC. It is probable that gold and iron were the only metals used by humans before copper. By 5000 BC, there are signs of copper smelting
: the refining of copper from simple copper compounds such as malachite
. Among archaeological sites in Anatolia, Çatal Höyük
(~6000 BC) features native copper artifacts and smelted lead beads, but no smelted copper.
(~5000 BC) had access to smelted copper but the oldest smelted copper artifact found (a copper chisel from the chalcolithic site of Prokuplje in Serbia) has pre-dated Can Hasan by 500 years. The smelting facilities in the Balkans appear to be more advanced than the Turkish forges found at a later date, so it is quite probable that copper smelting originated in the Balkans. Investment casting was realized in 4500-4000 BCE in Southeast Asia.
Copper smelting appears to have been developed independently in several parts of the world. In addition to its development in the Balkans by 5,500 BC, it was developed in China before 2800 BC, in the Andes around 2000 BC, in Central America around 600 AD, and in West Africa around 900 AD. Copper is found extensively in the Indus Valley Civilization
by the 3rd millennium BC. In Europe, Ötzi the Iceman
, a well-preserved male dated to 3300-3200 BC, was found with an axe tipped with copper that was 99.7% pure. High levels of arsenic
in his hair suggest he was involved in copper smelting. Over the course of centuries, experience with copper has assisted the development of other metals; for example, knowledge of copper smelting led to the discovery of iron smelting
In the Americas production in the Old Copper Complex
, located in present day Michigan and Wisconsin, was dated back to between 6000 to 3000 BC.
Alloying to make brass or bronze was realized soon after the discovery of copper itself. There exist copper and bronze
artifacts from Sumerian
cities that date to 3000 BC, and Egyptian
artifacts of copper and copper-tin
alloys nearly as old. In one pyramid, a copper plumbing system was found that is 5000 years old. The Egyptians found that adding a small amount of tin made the metal easier to cast, so copper-tin (bronze
) alloys were found in Egypt almost as soon as copper was found. Very important sources of copper in the Levant were located in Timna valley
(Negev, now in southern Israel) and Faynan (biblical Punon
By 2000 BC, Europe was using bronze. The use of bronze
became so pervasive in a certain era of civilization (approximately 2500 BC to 600 BC in Europe) that it has been named the Bronze Age
. The transitional period in certain regions between the preceding Neolithic
period and the Bronze Age is termed the Chalcolithic
("copper-stone"), with some high-purity copper tools being used alongside stone tools. Brass
(copper-zinc) was known to the Greeks, but only became a significant supplement to bronze during the Roman empire.
the symbol for copper, perhaps a stylized mirror, was also the symbol for the goddess and planet Venus
During the Bronze Age, one copper mine at Great Orme
in North Wales, extended for a depth of 70 metres. At Alderley Edge
, carbon dates have established mining at around 2280 to 1890 BC (at 95% probability).
Antiquity and Middle Ages
In Greek the metal was known by the name chalkos
(χαλκός). Copper was a very important resource for the Romans, Greeks and other ancient peoples. In Roman times, it became known as aes Cyprium
being the generic Latin term for copper alloys such as bronze
and other metals, and Cyprium
because so much of it was mined in Cyprus
). From this, the phrase was simplified to cuprum
and then eventually Anglicized into the English copper
. Copper was associated with the goddess Aphrodite
in mythology and alchemy
, owing to its lustrous beauty, its ancient use in producing mirrors, and its association with Cyprus
, which was sacred to the goddess. In astrology alchemy the seven heavenly bodies known to the ancients were associated with seven metals also known in antiquity, and Venus
was assigned to copper.
Britain's first use of brass occurred some time around the 3rd - 2nd century B.C. In north America, copper mining began with marginal workings by Native Americans. Native copper is known to have been extracted from sites on Isle Royale
with primitive stone tools between 800 and 1600.
Copper metallurgy was flourishing in South America, particularly in Peru around the beginning of the first millennium AD. Copper technology proceeded at a much slower rate on other continents. Africa's major location for copper reserves is Zambia. Copper burial ornamentals dated from the 15th century have been uncovered, but the metal's commercial production did not start until the early 1900s. Australian copper artifacts exist, but they appear only after the arrival of the Europeans; the aboriginal culture apparently did not develop their own metallurgical abilities.
Crucial in the metallurgical and technological worlds, copper has also played an important cultural role, particularly in currency. Romans
in the 6th through 3rd centuries B.C. used copper lumps as money. At first, just the copper itself was valued, but gradually the shape and look of the copper became more important. Julius Caesar had his own coins, made from a copper-zinc alloy, while Octavianus Augustus Caesar
's) coins were made from Cu-Pb-Sn alloys.
The gates of the Temple of Jerusalem
bronze made by depletion gilding. Corinthian bronze was most prevalent in Alexandria, where alchemy is thought to have begun. In ancient India (before 1000 B.C.), copper was used in the holistic
medical science Ayurveda
for surgical instruments and other medical equipment. Ancient Egyptians (~2400 B.C.) used copper for sterilizing wounds and drinking water, and as time passed, (~1500 B.C.) for headaches, burns, and itching. Hippocrates
(~400 B.C.) used copper to treat leg ulcers associated with varicose veins. Ancient Aztecs fought sore throats by gargling with copper mixtures.
Copper is also the part of many rich stories and legends, such as that of Iraq's Baghdad Battery
. Copper cylinders soldered to lead, which date back to 248 B.C. to 226 A.D, resemble a galvanic cell, leading people to believe this may have been the first battery. This claim has so far not been substantiated.
The Bible also refers to the importance of copper: "Men know how to mine silver and refine gold, to dig iron from the earth and melt copper from stone" (Job. 28:1-2).
Throughout history, copper's use in art has extended far beyond currency. Vannoccio Biringuccio
, Giorgio Vasari
and Benvenuto Cellini
are three Renaissance sculptors
from the mid 1500s, notable for their work with bronze. From about 1560 to about 1775, thin sheets of copper were commonly used as a canvas for paintings. Silver plated copper was used in the pre-photograph known as the daguerreotype
. The Statue of Liberty
, dedicated on October 28, 1886, was constructed of copper thought to have come from French-owned mines in Norway.
Plating was a technology that began started in the mid 1600s in some areas. One common use for copper plating
, widespread in the 1700s, was the sheathing of ships' hulls. Copper sheathing
could be used to protect wooden hulled ships from algae, and from the shipworm "toredo". The ships of Christopher Columbus were among the earliest to have this protection.
In the early 1800s, it was discovered that copper wire
could be used as a conductor, but it wasn't until 1990 that copper, in oxide form, was discovered for use as a superconducting material
. The German scientist Osann
invented powder metallurgy
of copper in 1830 while determining the metal's atomic weight. Around then it was also discovered that the amount and type of alloying element (e.g. tin) would affect the tones of bells, allowing for a variety of rich sounds, leading to bell casting, another common use for copper and its alloys.
, which is still used today, was developed in Europe in order to make the smelting process more energy efficient. In 1908, in Outokumpu, Finland, a large deposit of copper ore was discovered, which eventually led to the development of flash smelting.
Copper has been pivotal in the economic and sociological worlds, notably disputes involving copper mines. The 1906 Cananea Strike in Mexico dealt with issues of work organization. The Teniente copper mine (1904-1951) raised political issues about capitalism and class structure. Japan's largest copper mine, the Ashio mine, was the site of a riot in 1907. The Arizona miners' strike of 1938 dealt with American labor issues including the "right to strike".
Copper exists as a metallically bonded
substance, allowing it to have a wide variety of metallic properties.
Copper is a reddish-colored metal
; it has its characteristic color because of its band structure
. In its liquefied state, a pure copper surface without ambient light appears somewhat greenish, a characteristic shared with gold. When liquid copper is in bright ambient light, it retains some of its pinkish luster.
Copper occupies the same family of the periodic table as silver
, since they each have one s-orbital electron on top of a filled electron shell
. This similarity in electron structure makes them similar in many characteristics. All have very high thermal and electrical conductivity, and all are malleable metals. Among pure metals at room temperature
, copper has the second highest electrical
and thermal conductivity
, after silver
A single crystal copper consists of a few micrometres of small crystals. In this form of crystal (c), the yield stress is high and crystal undergoes a large amount of elastic deformation before going into the plastic deformation region. The plastic deformation region has an unpredictable outcome. The stress level decreases significantly as necking begins to occur.
has many crystal of different geometries combined. The plastic deformation of polycrystal is similar to mild steel. Copper has a high ductility and will continue to elongate as stress is applied. It is very useful in copper wire drawing.
Numerous copper alloys
exist, many with important historical and contemporary uses. Speculum metal
are alloys of copper and tin
is an alloy of copper and zinc
metal, also called cupronickel
, is an alloy of copper and nickel
. While the metal "bronze" usually refers to copper-tin alloys, it also is a generic term for any alloy of copper, such as aluminium bronze
, silicon bronze, and manganese bronze.
At 60 Mmhos
/m copper has the second highest electrical conductivity of any element after silver. This high value is due to virtually all the valence electrons (one per atom) taking part in conduction. The resulting free electrons
in the copper amounting to a huge charge density of 13.6x109
. This high charge density is responsible for the rather slow drift velocity
of currents in copper cable (drift velocity may be calculated as the ratio of current density to charge density). For instance, at a current density of 5x106
(typically, the maximum current density present in household wiring and grid distribution) the drift velocity is just a little over ⅓ mm/s.
Pure water and air
Copper is a metal that does not react with water (H2O), but the oxygen of the air will react slowly at room temperature to form a layer of brown-black copper oxide on copper metal.
The Pourbaix diagram
for copper in pure water, perchloric acid or sodium It can be seen that copper in "pure" water is more noble than hydrogen. As a result it does not corrode in oxygen free water and the corrosion rate in oxygenated water is low. hydroxide
It is important to note that in contrast to the oxidation of iron by wet air that the layer formed by the reaction of air with copper has a protective effect against further corrosion. On old copper roofs a green layer of copper carbonate, called verdigris
, can often be seen. Another notable example of this is on the Statue of Liberty
In contact with other metals
Copper should not be in only mechanical contact with metals of different electropotential
(for example, a copper pipe joined to an iron
pipe), especially in the presence of moisture, as the completion of an electrical circuit (as through the common earth ground) will cause the juncture to act as an electrochemical cell
(as is a single cell of a battery
). The weak electrical currents themseves are harmless but the electrochemical reaction will cause the conversion of the iron to other compounds, eventually destroying the functionality of the union. This problem is usually solved in plumbing
by separating copper pipe from iron pipe with some non-conducting segment (usually plastic or rubber).
Copper metal does react with hydrogen sulfide
- and sulfide
-containing solutions. A series of different copper sulfides can form on the surface of the copper metal.
Note that the copper sulfide area of the plot is very complex due to the existence of many different sulfides, a close up is also provided to make the graph more clear. It is clear that the copper is now able to corrode even without the need for oxygen as the copper is now less noble than hydrogen
. This can be observed in every day life when copper metal surfaces tarnish
after exposure to air which contains sulfur compounds.
Copper does react with oxygen-containing ammonia solutions because the ammonia forms water-soluble copper complexes. The formation of these complexes causes the corrosion to become more thermodynamically favored than the corrosion of copper in an identical solution that does not contain the ammonia.
Copper does react with a combination of oxygen and hydrochloric acid to form a series of copper chlorides. It is interesting to note that if copper(II) chloride (green/blue) is boiled with copper metal (with little or no oxygen present) then white copper(I) chloride will be formed.
Copper is germicidal, via the oligodynamic effect
. For example, brass doorknobs disinfect themselves of many bacteria within a period of eight hours. Antimicrobial
properties of copper are effective against MRSA
, Escherichia coli
and other pathogens
. In colder temperature, longer time is required to kill bacteria.
Copper has 29 distinct isotopes
ranging in atomic mass
from 52 to 80. Two of these, 63
Cu and 65
Cu, are stable and occur naturally, with 63
Cu comprising approximately 69% of naturally occurring copper.
The other 27 isotopes are radioactive
and do not occur naturally. The most stable of these is 67
Cu with a half-life
of 61.83 hours. The least stable is 54
Cu with a half-life of approximately 75 ns. Unstable copper isotopes with atomic masses below 63 tend to undergo β+ decay
, while isotopes with atomic masses above 65 tend to undergo β− decay
Cu decays by both β+
Cu, and 76
Cu each have one metastable isomer
Cu has two isomers, making a total of 7 distinct isomers. The most stable of these is 68m
Cu with a half-life of 3.75 minutes. The least stable is 69m
Cu with a half-life of 360 ns.
Copper output in 2005
World production trend
Evolution of the historical copper price
source : minerals.usgs.gov
Current price is at least four times higher than the 2002 value.
In 2005, Chile was the top mine producer of copper with at least one-third world share followed by the USA, Indonesia and Peru, reports the British Geological Survey
The Intergovernmental Council of Copper Exporting Countries
(CIPEC), defunct since 1992, once tried to play a similar role for copper as OPEC
does for oil
, but never achieved the same influence, not least because the second-largest producer, the United States
, was never a member. Formed in 1967, its principal members were Chile
, and Zambia
The copper price has quintupled from the 60-year low in 1999, rising from US$
0.60 per pound
) in June 1999 to US$3.75 per pound
) in May 2006, where it dropped to US$
) in February 2007 then rebounded to US$
3.89 = €
5.00) in April 2007.
The Earth has an estimated 61 years of copper reserves remaining. Environmental analyst, Lester Brown
, however, has suggested copper might run out within 25 years based on a reasonable extrapolation of 2% growth per year.
Copper has been in use at least 10,000 years, but more than 95 percent of all copper ever mined and smelted has been extracted since 1900. And as India and China race to catch up with the West, copper supplies are getting tight. Copper is among the most important industrial metals. Like fossil fuels, copper is a finite resource. Peak copper
is the point in time at which the maximum global copper
production rate is reached, according to Hubbert peak theory
, the rate of production enters its terminal decline.
The purity of copper is expressed as 4N for 99.99% pure or 7N for 99.99999% pure. The numeral gives the number of nines after the decimal point when expressed as a decimal (e.g. 4N means 0.9999, or 99.99%). Copper is often too soft for its applications, so it is incorporated in numerous alloys
. For example, brass
is a copper-zinc alloy , and bronze
is a copper-tin alloy.
It is used extensively, in products such as:
Assorted copper fittings.
- used extensively in refrigeration and air conditioning equipment because of its ease of fabrication and soldering.
Architecture / Industry
- As a component of coins, often as cupronickel alloy.
- Coins in the following countries all contain copper: European Union (Euro), United States, United Kingdom (sterling), Australia and New Zealand.
- U.S. Nickels are 75.0% copper by weight and only 25.0% nickel.
- Musical instruments, especially brass instruments and cymbals.
- Class D Fire Extinguisher, used in powder form to extinguish lithium fires by covering the burning metal and performing similar to a heat sink.
- Textile fibers to create antimicrobial protective fabrics.
- Small arms ammunition commonly uses copper as a jacketing material around the bullet core.
- Copper is also commonly used as a case material, in the form of brass.
- Copper is used as a liner in shaped-charge armour-piercing warheads.
- Copper is frequently used in electroplating with Zinc and other metals.
- Copper/Chlorine ions are injected into seawater systems as a biocide to prevent marine growth within the seawater pumping system.
Common oxidation states
of copper include the less stable copper(I) state, Cu+
; and the more stable copper(II) state, Cu2+
, which forms blue or blue-green salts and solutions. Under unusual conditions, a 3+ state and even an extremely rare 4+ state can be obtained. Using old nomenclature for the naming of salts, copper(I) is called cuprous
, and copper(II) is cupric
. In oxidation
copper is mildly basic
is green from which arises the unique appearance of copper-clad roofs or domes on some buildings. Copper(II) sulfate
forms a blue crystalline pentahydrate
which is perhaps the most familiar copper compound in the laboratory. It is used as a fungicide
, known as Bordeaux mixture.
Tests for copper(II) ion
Cu2+(aq) + 2OH−(aq) → Cu(OH)2(s)
The full equation shows that the reaction is due to hydroxide ions deprotonating the hexaaquacopper (II) complex:
[Cu(H2O)6]2+(aq) + 2 OH−(aq) → Cu(H2O)4(OH)2(s) + 2 H2O (l)
Adding ammonium hydroxide
(aqueous ammonia) causes the same precipitate to form. It then dissolves upon adding excess ammonia, to form a deep blue ammonia complex, tetraamminecopper(II).
Cu(H2O)4(OH)2(s) + 4 NH3(aq) → [Cu(H2O)2(NH3)4]2+(aq) + 2H2O(l) + 2 OH−(aq)
A more delicate test than ammonia is potassium ferrocyanide
, which gives a brown precipitate with copper salts.
Rich sources of copper include oysters, beef or lamb liver, Brazil nuts, blackstrap molasses, cocoa, and black pepper. Good sources include lobster, nuts and sunflower seeds, green olives, avocados and wheat bran.
Copper is essential in all plants and animals. Copper is carried mostly in the bloodstream on a plasma protein
. When copper is first absorbed in the gut it is transported to the liver
bound to albumin
. Copper is found in a variety of enzymes
, including the copper centers of cytochrome c oxidase
and the enzyme superoxide dismutase
(containing copper and zinc). In addition to its enzymatic roles, copper is used for biological electron transport. The blue copper proteins that participate in electron transport include azurin
. The name "blue copper" comes from their intense blue color arising from a ligand-to-metal charge transfer (LMCT) absorption band around 600 nm.
It is believed that zinc
and copper compete for absorption in the digestive tract so that a diet that is excessive in one of these minerals may result in a deficiency in the other. The RDA
for copper in normal healthy adults is 0.9 mg
/day. On the other hand, professional research on the subject recommends 3.0 mg
/day. Because of its role in facilitating iron uptake, copper deficiency
can often produce anemia
-like symptoms. In humans, the symptoms of Wilson's disease
are caused by an accumulation of copper in body tissues.
Chronic copper depletion leads to abnormalities in metabolism of fats, high triglycerides, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), fatty liver disease and poor melanin and dopamine synthesis causing depression and sunburn. Food rich in copper should be eaten away from any milk or egg proteins as they block absorption.
Toxicity can occur from eating acid food that had been cooked in Copper cookware. Cirrhosis of the liver in children (Indian Childhood Cirrhosis) has been linked to boiling milk in copper cookware. The Merck Manual states that recent studies suggest that a genetic defect is associated with this cirrhosis, but this should not be regarded as an endorsement of the practice since other toxicity besides cirrhosis can occur as in adults.
The suggested safe level of copper in drinking water
for humans varies depending on the source, but tends to be pegged at 0.15 to 0.20 mg/L. The DRI
Tolerable Upper Intake Level for adults of dietary copper from all sources is 10 mg/day.
In toxicity, copper can inhibit the enzyme
dihydrophil hydratase, an enzyme involved in haemopoiesis
Symptoms of copper poisoning
are very similar to those produced by arsenic
. Fatal cases are generally terminated by convulsions, palsy, and insensibility.
In cases of suspected copper poisoning, Ovalbumin
is to be administered in either of its forms which can be most readily obtained, as milk or whites of eggs
. Vinegar should not be given. The inflammatory symptoms are to be treated on general principles, and so are the nervous.
A significant portion of the toxicity of copper comes from its ability to accept and donate single electrons as it changes oxidation state. This catalyzes the production of very reactive radical ions such as hydroxyl radical
in a manner similar to Fenton chemistry
. This catalytic activity of copper is used by the enzymes that it is associated with and is thus only toxic when unsequestered and unmediated.
This increase in unmediated reactive radicals is generally termed oxidative stress
and is an active area of research in a variety of diseases where copper may play an important but more subtle role than in acute toxicity.
A Kayser-Fleischer ring
. Copper deposits are found in the iris. This is an indication that the body is not metabolizing copper properly.
An inherited condition called Wilson's disease
causes the body to retain copper, since it is not excreted by the liver
into the bile
. This disease, if untreated, can lead to brain
damage. In addition, studies have found that people with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia
had heightened levels of copper in their systems. However it is unknown at this stage whether the copper contributes to the mental illness, whether the body attempts to store more copper in response to the illness, or whether the high levels of copper are the result of the mental illness.
Too much copper in water has also been found to damage marine life. The observed effect of these higher concentrations on fish and other creatures is damage to gills, liver, kidneys, and the nervous system. It also interferes with the sense of smell in fish, thus preventing them from choosing good mates or finding their way to mating areas.
The metal, when powdered, is a fire hazard
. At concentrations higher than 1 mg/L, copper can stain clothes and items washed in water.