Copper is a chemical element with symbol Cu (from Latin: cuprum) and
atomic number 29. 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 for temperature measurement.
Copper is one of the few metals that occur in nature in directly
usable metallic form (native metals) as opposed to needing extraction
from an ore. This led to very early human use, from c. 8000 BC. It was
the first metal to be smelted from its ore, c. 5000 BC, the first
metal to be cast into a shape in a mold, c. 4000 BC and the first
metal to be purposefully alloyed with another metal, tin, to create
bronze, c. 3500 BC.
In the Roman era, copper was principally mined on Cyprus, the origin
of the name of the metal, from aes сyprium (metal of Cyprus), later
corrupted to сuprum, from which the words copper (English), cuivre
(French), cobre (Spanish), Koper (Dutch) and Kupfer (German) are all
derived. The commonly encountered compounds are copper(II) salts,
which often impart blue or green colors to such minerals as azurite,
malachite, and turquoise, and have been used widely and historically
Copper used in buildings, usually for roofing, oxidizes
to form a green verdigris (or patina).
Copper is sometimes used in
decorative art, both in its elemental metal form and in compounds as
Copper compounds are used as bacteriostatic agents,
fungicides, and wood preservatives.
Copper is essential to all living organisms as a trace dietary mineral
because it is a key constituent of the respiratory enzyme complex
cytochrome c oxidase. In molluscs and crustaceans, copper is a
constituent of the blood pigment hemocyanin, replaced by the
iron-complexed hemoglobin in fish and other vertebrates. In humans,
copper is found mainly in the liver, muscle, and bone. The adult
body contains between 1.4 and 2.1 mg of copper per kilogram of
4.1 Binary compounds
4.2 Coordination chemistry
4.3 Organocopper chemistry
4.4 Copper(III) and copper(IV)
5.3 Antiquity and Middle Ages
5.4 Modern period
6.1 Wire and cable
Electronics and related devices
6.3 Electric motors
6.5 Antibiofouling applications
6.7 Folk medicine
6.7.1 Compression clothing
6.8 Other uses
8 Biological role
8.1 Dietary needs
8.2 Dietary recommendations
8.5 Human exposure
9 See also
12 Further reading
13 External links
A copper disc (99.95% pure) made by continuous casting; etched to
Copper just above its melting point keeps its pink luster color when
enough light outshines the orange incandescence color
Copper, silver, and gold are in group 11 of the periodic table; these
three metals have one s-orbital electron on top of a filled d-electron
shell and are characterized by high ductility, and electrical and
thermal conductivity. The filled d-shells in these elements contribute
little to interatomic interactions, which are dominated by the
s-electrons through metallic bonds. Unlike metals with incomplete
d-shells, metallic bonds in copper are lacking a covalent character
and are relatively weak. This observation explains the low hardness
and high ductility of single crystals of copper. At the macroscopic
scale, introduction of extended defects to the crystal lattice, such
as grain boundaries, hinders flow of the material under applied
stress, thereby increasing its hardness. For this reason, copper is
usually supplied in a fine-grained polycrystalline form, which has
greater strength than monocrystalline forms.
The softness of copper partly explains its high electrical
conductivity (59.6×106 S/m) and high thermal conductivity,
second highest (second only to silver) among pure metals at room
temperature. This is because the resistivity to electron transport
in metals at room temperature originates primarily from scattering of
electrons on thermal vibrations of the lattice, which are relatively
weak in a soft metal. The maximum permissible current density of
copper in open air is approximately 3.1×106 A/m2 of
cross-sectional area, above which it begins to heat excessively.
Copper is one of a few metallic elements with a natural color other
than gray or silver. Pure copper is orange-red and acquires a
reddish tarnish when exposed to air. The characteristic color of
copper results from the electronic transitions between the filled 3d
and half-empty 4s atomic shells – the energy difference between
these shells corresponds to orange light.
As with other metals, if copper is put in contact with another metal,
galvanic corrosion will occur.
Unoxidized copper wire (left) and oxidized copper wire (right)
The East Tower of the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh. The contrast
between the refurbished copper installed in 2010 and the green color
of the original 1894 copper is clearly seen.
Copper does not react with water, but it does slowly react with
atmospheric oxygen to form a layer of brown-black copper oxide which,
unlike the rust that forms on iron in moist air, protects the
underlying metal from further corrosion (passivation). A green layer
of verdigris (copper carbonate) can often be seen on old copper
structures, such as the roofing of many older buildings and the
Statue of Liberty.
Copper tarnishes when exposed to some sulfur
compounds, with which it reacts to form various copper sulfides.
Main article: Isotopes of copper
There are 29 isotopes of copper. 63Cu and 65Cu are stable, with 63Cu
comprising approximately 69% of naturally occurring copper; both have
a spin of 3⁄2. The other isotopes are radioactive, with the
most stable being 67Cu with a half-life of 61.83 hours. Seven
metastable isotopes have been characterized; 68mCu is the
longest-lived with a half-life of 3.8 minutes. Isotopes with a mass
number above 64 decay by β−, whereas those with a mass number below
64 decay by β+. 64Cu, which has a half-life of 12.7 hours, decays
62Cu and 64Cu have significant applications. 62Cu is used in 62Cu-PTSM
as a radioactive tracer for positron emission tomography.
Native copper from the Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan, about 2.5 inches
(6.4 cm) long
Copper is produced in massive stars and is present in the Earth's
crust in a proportion of about 50 parts per million (ppm). In
nature, copper occurs in a variety of minerals, including native
copper, copper sulfides such as chalcopyrite, bornite, digenite,
covellite, and chalcocite, copper sulfosalts such as
tetrahedite-tennantite, and enargite, copper carbonates such as
azurite and malachite, and as copper(I) or copper(II) oxides such as
cuprite and tenorite, respectively. The largest mass of elemental
copper discovered weighed 420 tonnes and was found in 1857 on the
Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan, US.
Native copper is a
polycrystal, with the largest single crystal ever described measuring
Chuquicamata, in Chile, is one of the world's largest open pit copper
World production trend
Copper prices 2003–2011 in US$ per tonne
See also: List of countries by copper production
Most copper is mined or extracted as copper sulfides from large open
pit mines in porphyry copper deposits that contain 0.4 to 1.0% copper.
Sites include Chuquicamata, in Chile, Bingham Canyon Mine, in Utah,
United States, and El Chino Mine, in New Mexico, United States.
According to the British Geological Survey, in 2005, Chile was the top
producer of copper with at least one-third of the world share followed
by the United States, Indonesia and Peru.
Copper can also be
recovered through the in-situ leach process. Several sites in the
state of Arizona are considered prime candidates for this method.
The amount of copper in use is increasing and the quantity available
is barely sufficient to allow all countries to reach developed world
levels of usage.
Peak copper § Reserves
Copper has been in use at least 10,000 years, but more than 95% of all
copper ever mined and smelted has been extracted since 1900, and
more than half was extracted the last 24 years. As with many natural
resources, the total amount of copper on Earth is vast, with around
1014 tons in the top kilometer of Earth's crust, which is about 5
million years' worth at the current rate of extraction. However, only
a tiny fraction of these reserves is economically viable with
present-day prices and technologies. Estimates of copper reserves
available for mining vary from 25 to 60 years, depending on core
assumptions such as the growth rate. Recycling is a major source
of copper in the modern world. Because of these and other factors,
the future of copper production and supply is the subject of much
debate, including the concept of peak copper, analogous to peak oil.
The price of copper has historically been unstable, and its price
increased from the 60-year low of US$0.60/lb (US$1.32/kg) in June 1999
to $3.75 per pound ($8.27/kg) in May 2006. It dropped to $2.40/lb
($5.29/kg) in February 2007, then rebounded to $3.50/lb ($7.71/kg) in
April 2007.[better source needed] In February 2009,
weakening global demand and a steep fall in commodity prices since the
previous year's highs left copper prices at $1.51/lb ($3.32/kg).
Copper extraction techniques
Scheme of flash smelting process
The concentration of copper in ores averages only 0.6%, and most
commercial ores are sulfides, especially chalcopyrite (CuFeS2),
bornite (Cu5FeS4) and, to a lesser extent, covellite (CuS) and
chalcocite (Cu2S). These minerals are concentrated from crushed
ores to the level of 10–15% copper by froth flotation or
bioleaching. Heating this material with silica in flash smelting
removes much of the iron as slag. The process exploits the greater
ease of converting iron sulfides into oxides, which in turn react with
the silica to form the silicate slag that floats on top of the heated
mass. The resulting copper matte, consisting of Cu2S, is roasted to
convert all sulfides into oxides:
2 Cu2S + 3 O2 → 2 Cu2O + 2 SO2
The cuprous oxide is converted to blister copper upon heating:
2 Cu2O → 4 Cu + O2
The Sudbury matte process converted only half the sulfide to oxide and
then used this oxide to remove the rest of the sulfur as oxide. It was
then electrolytically refined and the anode mud exploited for the
platinum and gold it contained. This step exploits the relatively easy
reduction of copper oxides to copper metal.
Natural gas is blown
across the blister to remove most of the remaining oxygen and
electrorefining is performed on the resulting material to produce pure
Cu2+ + 2 e− → Cu
Flowchart of copper refining (
Anode casting plant of Uralelektromed)
Copper casting of anodes
Anodes removal machine
Transportation to the tank house
Like aluminium, copper is recyclable without any loss of quality,
both from raw state and from manufactured products. In volume,
copper is the third most recycled metal after iron and aluminium.
An estimated 80% of all copper ever mined is still in use today.
According to the International Resource Panel's Metal Stocks in
Society report, the global per capita stock of copper in use in
society is 35–55 kg. Much of this is in more-developed
countries (140–300 kg per capita) rather than less-developed
countries (30–40 kg per capita).
The process of recycling copper is roughly the same as is used to
extract copper but requires fewer steps. High-purity scrap copper is
melted in a furnace and then reduced and cast into billets and ingots;
lower-purity scrap is refined by electroplating in a bath of sulfuric
See also: List of copper alloys
Numerous copper alloys have been formulated, many with important uses.
Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc.
Bronze usually refers to
copper-tin alloys, but can refer to any alloy of copper such as
Copper is one of the most important constituents of
silver and carat gold and carat solders used in the jewelry industry,
modifying the color, hardness and melting point of the resulting
alloys. Some lead-free solders consist of tin alloyed with a small
proportion of copper and other metals.
The alloy of copper and nickel, called cupronickel, is used in
low-denomination coins, often for the outer cladding. The US five-cent
coin (currently called a nickel) consists of 75% copper and 25% nickel
in homogeneous composition. The alloy of 90% copper and 10% nickel,
remarkable for its resistance to corrosion, is used for various
objects exposed to seawater, though it is vulnerable to the sulfides
sometimes found in polluted harbors and estuaries. Alloys of
copper with aluminium (about 7%) have a golden color and are used in
Shakudō is a Japanese decorative alloy of copper
containing a low percentage of gold, typically 4–10%, that can be
patinated to a dark blue or black color.
A sample of copper(I) oxide.
See also: Category:
Copper forms a rich variety of compounds, usually with oxidation
states +1 and +2, which are often called cuprous and cupric,
As with other elements, the simplest compounds of copper are binary
compounds, i.e. those containing only two elements, the principal
examples being oxides, sulfides, and halides. Both cuprous and cupric
oxides are known. Among the numerous copper sulfides, important
examples include copper(I) sulfide and copper(II) sulfide.
Cuprous halides (with chlorine, bromine, and iodine) are known, as are
cupric halides with fluorine, chlorine, and bromine. Attempts to
prepare copper(II) iodide yield only cuprous iodide and iodine.
2 Cu2+ + 4 I− → 2 CuI + I2
Copper(II) gives a deep blue coloration in the presence of ammonia
ligands. The one used here is tetramminecopper(II) sulfate.
Copper forms coordination complexes with ligands. In aqueous solution,
copper(II) exists as [Cu(H2O)6]2+. This complex exhibits the fastest
water exchange rate (speed of water ligands attaching and detaching)
for any transition metal aquo complex. Adding aqueous sodium hydroxide
causes the precipitation of light blue solid copper(II) hydroxide. A
simplified equation is:
Pourbaix diagram for copper in uncomplexed media (anions other than
OH- not considered). Ion concentration 0.001 m (mol/kg water).
Temperature 25 °C.
Cu2+ + 2 OH− → Cu(OH)2
Aqueous ammonia results in the same precipitate. Upon adding excess
ammonia, the precipitate dissolves, forming tetraamminecopper(II):
Cu(H2O)4(OH)2 + 4 NH3 → [Cu(H2O)2(NH3)4]2+ + 2 H2O + 2 OH−
Many other oxyanions form complexes; these include copper(II) acetate,
copper(II) nitrate, and copper(II) carbonate.
Copper(II) sulfate forms
a blue crystalline pentahydrate, the most familiar copper compound in
the laboratory. It is used in a fungicide called the Bordeaux
Ball-and-stick model of the complex [Cu(NH3)4(H2O)2]2+, illustrating
the octahedral coordination geometry common for copper(II).
Polyols, compounds containing more than one alcohol functional group,
generally interact with cupric salts. For example, copper salts are
used to test for reducing sugars. Specifically, using Benedict's
Fehling's solution the presence of the sugar is signaled
by a color change from blue Cu(II) to reddish copper(I) oxide.
Schweizer's reagent and related complexes with ethylenediamine and
other amines dissolve cellulose. Amino acids form very stable
chelate complexes with copper(II). Many wet-chemical tests for copper
ions exist, one involving potassium ferrocyanide, which gives a brown
precipitate with copper(II) salts.
Main article: Organocopper compound
Compounds that contain a carbon-copper bond are known as organocopper
compounds. They are very reactive towards oxygen to form copper(I)
oxide and have many uses in chemistry. They are synthesized by
treating copper(I) compounds with Grignard reagents, terminal alkynes
or organolithium reagents; in particular, the last reaction
described produces a Gilman reagent. These can undergo substitution
with alkyl halides to form coupling products; as such, they are
important in the field of organic synthesis.
Copper(I) acetylide is
highly shock-sensitive but is an intermediate in reactions such as the
Cadiot-Chodkiewicz coupling and the Sonogashira coupling.
Conjugate addition to enones and carbocupration of alkynes can
also be achieved with organocopper compounds. Copper(I) forms a
variety of weak complexes with alkenes and carbon monoxide, especially
in the presence of amine ligands.
Copper(III) and copper(IV)
Copper(III) is most often found in oxides. A simple example is
potassium cuprate, KCuO2, a blue-black solid. The most extensively
studied copper(III) compounds are the cuprate superconductors. Yttrium
barium copper oxide (YBa2Cu3O7) consists of both Cu(II) and Cu(III)
centres. Like oxide, fluoride is a highly basic anion and is known
to stabilize metal ions in high oxidation states. Both copper(III) and
even copper(IV) fluorides are known, K3CuF6 and Cs2CuF6,
Some copper proteins form oxo complexes, which also feature
copper(III). With tetrapeptides, purple-colored copper(III)
complexes are stabilized by the deprotonated amide ligands.
Complexes of copper(III) are also found as intermediates in reactions
of organocopper compounds. For example, in the
A corroded copper ingot from Zakros, Crete, shaped in the form of an
animal skin typical in that era.
Many tools during the
Chalcolithic Era included copper, such as the
blade of this replica of Ötzi's axe
Copper ore (chrysocolla) in
Cambrian sandstone from
in the Timna Valley, southern Israel.
Copper occurs naturally as native metallic copper and was known to
some of the oldest civilizations on record. The history of copper use
9000 BC in the Middle East; a copper pendant was found in
northern Iraq that dates to 8700 BC. Evidence suggests that gold
and meteoric iron (but not iron smelting) were the only metals used by
humans before copper. The history of copper metallurgy is thought
to follow this sequence: First, cold working of native copper, then
annealing, smelting, and, finally, lost-wax casting. In southeastern
Anatolia, all four of these techniques appear more or less
simultaneously at the beginning of the
Neolithic c. 7500 BC.
Copper smelting was independently invented in different places. It was
probably discovered in China before 2800 BC, in Central America around
600 AD, and in West Africa about the 9th or 10th century AD.
Investment casting was invented in 4500–4000 BC in Southeast
Asia and carbon dating has established mining at
Alderley Edge in
Cheshire, UK, at 2280 to 1890 BC.
Ötzi the Iceman, a male dated
from 3300–3200 BC, was found with an axe with a copper head 99.7%
pure; high levels of arsenic in his hair suggest an involvement in
copper smelting. Experience with copper has assisted the
development of other metals; in particular, copper smelting led to the
discovery of iron smelting. Production in the Old
in Michigan and Wisconsin is dated between 6000 and 3000 BC.
Natural bronze, a type of copper made from ores rich in silicon,
arsenic, and (rarely) tin, came into general use in the Balkans around
Alloying copper with tin to make bronze was first practiced about 4000
years after the discovery of copper smelting, and about 2000 years
after "natural bronze" had come into general use.
Vinča culture date to 4500 BC. Sumerian and Egyptian
artifacts of copper and bronze alloys date to 3000 BC. The Bronze
Age began in Southeastern Europe around 3700–3300 BC, in
Northwestern Europe about 2500 BC. It ended with the beginning of the
Iron Age, 2000–1000 BC in the Near East, and 600 BC in Northern
Europe. The transition between the
Neolithic period and the
was formerly termed the
Chalcolithic period (copper-stone), when
copper tools were used with stone tools. The term has gradually fallen
out of favor because in some parts of the world, the
Neolithic are coterminous at both ends. Brass, an alloy of copper and
zinc, is of much more recent origin. It was known to the Greeks, but
became a significant supplement to bronze during the Roman Empire.
Antiquity and Middle Ages
In alchemy the symbol for copper was also the symbol for the goddess
and planet Venus.
Chalcolithic copper mine in Timna Valley, Negev Desert, Israel.
In Greece, copper was known by the name chalkos (χαλκός). It was
an important resource for the Romans, Greeks and other ancient
peoples. In Roman times, it was known as aes Cyprium, aes being the
generic Latin term for copper alloys and Cyprium from Cyprus, where
much copper was mined. The phrase was simplified to cuprum, hence the
Venus in Rome) represented copper in
mythology and alchemy because of its lustrous beauty and its ancient
use in producing mirrors;
Cyprus was sacred to the goddess. The seven
heavenly bodies known to the ancients were associated with the seven
metals known in antiquity, and
Venus was assigned to copper.
Copper was first used in ancient Britain in about the 3rd or 2nd
Century BC. 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 1000 AD.
Copper burial ornamentals from
the 15th century have been uncovered, but the metal's commercial
production did not start until the early 20th century.
The cultural role of copper has been important, particularly in
currency. Romans in the 6th through 3rd centuries BC used copper lumps
as money. At first, 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 brass, while Octavianus
coins were made from Cu-Pb-Sn alloys. With an estimated annual output
of around 15,000 t, Roman copper mining and smelting activities
reached a scale unsurpassed until the time of the Industrial
Revolution; the provinces most intensely mined were those of Hispania,
Cyprus and in Central Europe.
The gates of the
Temple of Jerusalem
Temple of Jerusalem used
Corinthian bronze treated
with depletion gilding.[clarification needed] The
process was most prevalent in Alexandria, where alchemy is thought to
have begun. In ancient India, copper was used in the holistic
Ayurveda for surgical instruments and other medical
equipment. Ancient Egyptians (~2400 BC) used copper for
sterilizing wounds and drinking water, and later to treat headaches,
burns, and itching.
Acid mine drainage
Acid mine drainage affecting the stream running from the disused Parys
Mountain copper mines
Great Copper Mountain
Great Copper Mountain was a mine in Falun, Sweden, that operated
from the 10th century to 1992. It satisfied two thirds of Europe's
copper consumption in the 17th century and helped fund many of
Sweden's wars during that time. It was referred to as the nation's
treasury; Sweden had a copper backed currency.
Copper is used in roofing, currency, and for photographic
technology known as the daguerreotype.
Copper was used in Renaissance
sculpture, and was used to construct the Statue of Liberty; copper
continues to be used in construction of various types.
and copper sheathing were widely used to protect the under-water hulls
of ships, a technique pioneered by the British
Admiralty in the 18th
Norddeutsche Affinerie in Hamburg was the first
modern electroplating plant, starting its production in 1876. The
Gottfried Osann invented powder metallurgy in 1830
while determining the metal's atomic mass; around then it was
discovered that the amount and type of alloying element (e.g., tin) to
copper would affect bell tones.
Flash smelting was developed by
Outokumpu in Finland and first applied at
Harjavalta in 1949; the
energy-efficient process accounts for 50% of the world's primary
The Intergovernmental Council of
Copper Exporting Countries, formed in
1967 by Chile, Peru, Zaire and Zambia, operated in the copper market
OPEC does in oil, though it never achieved the same influence,
particularly because the second-largest producer, the United States,
was never a member; it was dissolved in 1988.
Copper in renewable energy
Assorted copper fittings
The major applications of copper are electrical wire (60%), roofing
and plumbing (20%), and industrial machinery (15%).
Copper is used
mostly as a pure metal, but when greater hardness is required, it is
put into such alloys as brass and bronze (5% of total use). For
more than two centuries, copper paint has been used on boat hulls to
control the growth of plants and shellfish. A small part of the
copper supply is used for nutritional supplements and fungicides in
Machining of copper is possible, although alloys
are preferred for good machinability in creating intricate parts.
Wire and cable
Copper wire and cable
Despite competition from other materials, copper remains the preferred
electrical conductor in nearly all categories of electrical wiring
except overhead electric power transmission where aluminium is often
Copper wire is used in power generation, power
transmission, power distribution, telecommunications, electronics
circuitry, and countless types of electrical equipment. Electrical
wiring is the most important market for the copper industry. This
includes structural power wiring, power distribution cable, appliance
wire, communications cable, automotive wire and cable, and magnet
wire. Roughly half of all copper mined is used for electrical wire and
cable conductors. Many electrical devices rely on copper wiring
because of its multitude of inherent beneficial properties, such as
its high electrical conductivity, tensile strength, ductility, creep
(deformation) resistance, corrosion resistance, low thermal expansion,
high thermal conductivity, ease of soldering, malleability, and ease
For a short period from the late 1960s to the late 1970s, copper
wiring was replaced by aluminium wiring in many housing construction
projects in America. The new wiring was implicated in a number of
house fires and the industry returned to copper.
Electronics and related devices
Copper electrical busbars distributing power to a large building
Integrated circuits and printed circuit boards increasingly feature
copper in place of aluminium because of its superior electrical
conductivity; heat sinks and heat exchangers use copper because of its
superior heat dissipation properties. Electromagnets, vacuum tubes,
cathode ray tubes, and magnetrons in microwave ovens use copper, as do
waveguides for microwave radiation.
Copper's superior conductivity enhances the efficiency of electrical
motors. This is important because motors and motor-driven systems
account for 43%–46% of all global electricity consumption and 69% of
all electricity used by industry. Increasing the mass and cross
section of copper in a coil increases the efficiency of the motor.
Copper motor rotors, a new technology designed for motor applications
where energy savings are prime design objectives, are enabling
general-purpose induction motors to meet and exceed National
Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) premium efficiency
Copper in architecture
Copper roof on the Minneapolis City Hall, coated with patina
Old copper utensils in a Jerusalem restaurant
Copper has been used since ancient times as a durable, corrosion
resistant, and weatherproof architectural material.
Roofs, flashings, rain gutters, downspouts, domes, spires, vaults, and
doors have been made from copper for hundreds or thousands of years.
Copper's architectural use has been expanded in modern times to
include interior and exterior wall cladding, building expansion
joints, radio frequency shielding, and antimicrobial and decorative
indoor products such as attractive handrails, bathroom fixtures, and
counter tops. Some of copper's other important benefits as an
architectural material include low thermal movement, light weight,
lightning protection, and recyclability.
The metal's distinctive natural green patina has long been coveted by
architects and designers. The final patina is a particularly durable
layer that is highly resistant to atmospheric corrosion, thereby
protecting the underlying metal against further
weathering. It can be a mixture of carbonate and
sulfate compounds in various amounts, depending upon environmental
conditions such as sulfur-containing acid rain.
Architectural copper and its alloys can also be 'finished' to take on
a particular look, feel, or color. Finishes include mechanical surface
treatments, chemical coloring, and coatings.
Copper has excellent brazing and soldering properties and can be
welded; the best results are obtained with gas metal arc welding.
Copper alloys in aquaculture
Copper alloys in aquaculture and
Copper is biostatic, meaning bacteria and many other forms of life
will not grow on it. For this reason it has long been used to line
parts of ships to protect against barnacles and mussels. It was
originally used pure, but has since been superseded by
Muntz metal and
copper-based paint. Similarly, as discussed in copper alloys in
aquaculture, copper alloys have become important netting materials in
the aquaculture industry because they are antimicrobial and prevent
biofouling, even in extreme conditions and have strong structural
and corrosion-resistant properties in marine environments.
Antimicrobial properties of copper and Antimicrobial
copper-alloy touch surfaces
Copper-alloy touch surfaces have natural properties that destroy a
wide range of microorganisms (e.g., E. coli O157:H7,
Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Staphylococcus,
Clostridium difficile, influenza A virus, adenovirus, and fungi).
Some 355 copper alloys[clarification needed] were proven to kill more
than 99.9% of disease-causing bacteria within just two hours when
cleaned regularly. The United States Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) has approved the registrations of these copper alloys as
"antimicrobial materials with public health benefits"; that
approval allows manufacturers to make legal claims to the public
health benefits of products made of registered alloys. In addition,
the EPA has approved a long list of antimicrobial copper products made
from these alloys, such as bedrails, handrails, over-bed tables,
sinks, faucets, door knobs, toilet hardware, computer keyboards,
health club equipment, and shopping cart handles (for a comprehensive
Antimicrobial copper-alloy touch surfaces#Approved
Copper doorknobs are used by hospitals to reduce the
transfer of disease, and
Legionnaires' disease is suppressed by copper
tubing in plumbing systems.
Antimicrobial copper alloy products
are now being installed in healthcare facilities in the U.K., Ireland,
Japan, Korea, France, Denmark, and Brazil and in the
subway transit system in Santiago, Chile, where copper-zinc alloy
handrails will be installed in some 30 stations between 2011 and
Copper is commonly used in jewelry, and according to some folklore,
copper bracelets relieve arthritis symptoms. In one trial for
osteoarthritis and one trial for rheumatoid arthritis no differences
is found between copper bracelet and control (non-copper)
bracelet. No evidence shows that copper can be absorbed
through the skin. If it were, it might lead to copper poisoning.
Recently, some compression clothing with inter-woven copper has been
marketed with health claims similar to the folk medicine claims.
Because compression clothing is a valid treatment for some ailments,
the clothing may have that benefit, but the added copper may have no
benefit beyond a placebo effect.
Textile fibers are blended with copper to create antimicrobial
Chromobacterium violaceum and
Pseudomonas fluorescens can both
mobilize solid copper as a cyanide compound. The ericoid
mycorrhizal fungi associated with Calluna, Erica and Vaccinium can
grow in metalliferous soils containing copper. The
ectomycorrhizal fungus Suillus luteus protects young pine trees from
copper toxicity. A sample of the fungus
Aspergillus niger was found
growing from gold mining solution and was found to contain cyano
complexes of such metals as gold, silver, copper, iron, and zinc. The
fungus also plays a role in the solubilization of heavy metal
Copper in health
Rich sources of copper include oysters, beef and lamb liver, Brazil
nuts, blackstrap molasses, cocoa, and black pepper. Good sources
include lobster, nuts and sunflower seeds, green olives, avocados, and
Copper proteins have diverse roles in biological electron transport
and oxygen transportation, processes that exploit the easy
interconversion of Cu(I) and Cu(II).
Copper is essential in the
aerobic respiration of all eukaryotes. In mitochondria, it is found in
cytochrome c oxidase, which is the last protein in oxidative
Cytochrome c oxidase
Cytochrome c oxidase is the protein that binds the O2
between a copper and an iron; the protein transfers 8 electrons to the
O2 molecule to reduce it to two molecules of water.
Copper is also
found in many superoxide dismutases, proteins that catalyze the
decomposition of superoxides by converting it (by disproportionation)
to oxygen and hydrogen peroxide:
Cu2+-SOD + O2− → Cu+-SOD + O2 (reduction of copper; oxidation of
Cu+-SOD + O2− + 2H+ → Cu2+-SOD + H2O2 (oxidation of copper;
reduction of superoxide)
The protein hemocyanin is the oxygen carrier in most mollusks and some
arthropods such as the horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus).
Because hemocyanin is blue, these organisms have blue blood rather
than the red blood of iron-based hemoglobin. Structurally related to
hemocyanin are the laccases and tyrosinases. Instead of reversibly
binding oxygen, these proteins hydroxylate substrates, illustrated by
their role in the formation of lacquers. The biological role for
copper commenced with the appearance of oxygen in earth's
atmosphere. Several copper proteins, such as the "blue copper
proteins", do not interact directly with substrates; hence they are
not enzymes. These proteins relay electrons by the process called
Photosynthesis functions by an elaborate electron transport chain
within the thylakoid membrane. A central link in this chain is
plastocyanin, a blue copper protein.
A unique tetranuclear copper center has been found in nitrous-oxide
Chemical compounds which were developed for treatment of Wilson's
disease have been investigated for use in cancer therapy.
Copper is an essential trace element in plants and animals, but not
all microorganisms. The human body contains copper at a level of about
1.4 to 2.1 mg per kg of body mass.
Copper is absorbed in the
gut, then transported to the liver bound to albumin. After
processing in the liver, copper is distributed to other tissues in a
second phase, which involves the protein ceruloplasmin, carrying the
majority of copper in blood.
Ceruloplasmin also carries the copper
that is excreted in milk, and is particularly well-absorbed as a
Copper in the body normally undergoes
enterohepatic circulation (about 5 mg a day, vs. about 1 mg
per day absorbed in the diet and excreted from the body), and the body
is able to excrete some excess copper, if needed, via bile, which
carries some copper out of the liver that is not then reabsorbed by
The U.S. Institute of Medicine (IOM) updated the estimated average
requirements (EARs) and recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) for
copper in 2001. If there is not sufficient information to establish
EARs and RDAs, an estimate designated
Adequate Intake (AI) is used
instead. The current EAR for copper for people age 14 and older is
0.7 mg/day. The RDA is 0.9 mg/day. RDAs are higher than EARs
so as to identify amounts that will cover people with higher than
average requirements. The RDA for pregnancy is 1.0 mg/day. RDA
for lactation is 1.3 mg/day. For infants up to 12 months, AI is
0.22 mg/day. For children age 1–13 years the RDA increases with
age from 0.34 to 0.7 mg/day. As for safety, the IOM also sets
Tolerable upper intake levels (ULs) for vitamins and minerals when
evidence is sufficient. In the case of copper the UL is set at
10 mg/day. Collectively the EARs, RDAs, AIs and ULs are referred
to as Dietary Reference Intakes.
European Food Safety Authority
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) refers to the collective set
of information as Dietary Reference Values, with Population Reference
Intake (PRI) instead of RDA, and Average Requirement instead of EAR.
AI and UL defined the same as in United States. For women and men ages
18 and older the AIs are set at 1.3 and 1.6 mg/day, respectively.
AIs for pregnancy and lactation is 1.5 mg/day. For children ages
1–17 years the AIs increase with age from 0.7 tp 1.3 mg/day.
These AIs are higher than the U.S. RDAs. The European Food Safety
Authority reviewed the same safety question and set its UL at
5 mg/day, which is half the U.S. value.
For U.S. food and dietary supplement labeling purposes the amount in a
serving is expressed as a percent of Daily Value (%DV). For copper
labeling purposes 100% of the Daily Value was 2.0 mg, but as of
May 27, 2016 it was revised to 0.9 mg to bring it into agreement
with the RDA. A table of the old and new adult Daily Values is
provided at Reference Daily Intake. The original deadline to be in
compliance was July 28, 2018, but on September 29, 2017 the FDA
released a proposed rule that extended the deadline to January 1, 2020
for large companies and January 1, 2021 for small companies.
Because of its role in facilitating iron uptake, copper deficiency can
produce anemia-like symptoms, neutropenia, bone abnormalities,
hypopigmentation, impaired growth, increased incidence of infections,
osteoporosis, hyperthyroidism, and abnormalities in glucose and
cholesterol metabolism. Conversely,
Wilson's disease causes an
accumulation of copper in body tissues.
Severe deficiency can be found by testing for low plasma or serum
copper levels, low ceruloplasmin, and low red blood cell superoxide
dismutase levels; these are not sensitive to marginal copper status.
The "cytochrome c oxidase activity of leucocytes and platelets" has
been stated as another factor in deficiency, but the results have not
been confirmed by replication.
Fire diamond for copper metal
Gram quantities of various copper salts have been taken in suicide
attempts and produced acute copper toxicity in humans, possibly due to
redox cycling and the generation of reactive oxygen species that
damage DNA. Corresponding amounts of copper salts
(30 mg/kg) are toxic in animals. A minimum dietary value for
healthy growth in rabbits has been reported to be at least 3 ppm in
the diet. However, higher concentrations of copper (100 ppm, 200
ppm, or 500 ppm) in the diet of rabbits may favorably influence feed
conversion efficiency, growth rates, and carcass dressing
Chronic copper toxicity does not normally occur in humans because of
transport systems that regulate absorption and excretion. Autosomal
recessive mutations in copper transport proteins can disable these
systems, leading to
Wilson's disease with copper accumulation and
cirrhosis of the liver in persons who have inherited two defective
Elevated copper levels have also been linked to worsening symptoms of
In the US, the
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
has designated a permissible exposure limit (PEL) for copper dust and
fumes in the workplace as a time-weighted average (TWA) of
1 mg/m3. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and
Health (NIOSH) has set a
Recommended exposure limit (REL) of
1 mg/m3, time-weighted average. The
IDLH (immediately dangerous
to life and health) value is 100 mg/m3.
Copper is a constituent of tobacco smoke. The tobacco plant
readily absorbs and accumulates heavy metals, such as copper from the
surrounding soil into its leaves. These are readily absorbed into the
user's body following smoke inhalation. The health implications
are not clear.
Erosion corrosion of copper water tubes
Cold water pitting of copper tube
List of countries by copper production
Bingham Canyon Mine
El Boleo mine
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Pourbaix diagrams for copper
in pure water, or acidic or alkali conditions.
Copper in neutral water
is more noble than hydrogen.
in water containing sulfide
in 10 M ammonia solution
in a chloride solution
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Copper transport disorders: an Instant insight from the Royal Society
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Copper and compounds fact sheet from the National Pollutant Inventory
CDC–NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards –
Copper (dusts and
mists) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National
Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
CDC–NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards –
Copper fume from the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Institute for
Occupational Safety and Health
Copper.org - official website of the
Copper Development Association
with an extensive site of properties and uses of copper
Brass.org - also operated by the
Copper Development Association;
dedicated to brass, a copper alloy.
Price history of copper, according to the IMF
Periodic table (Large cells)
Alkaline earth metal
Repoussé and chasing
Wire wrapped jewelry
Precious metal alloys
Other natural objects
BNF: cb119470591 (data)