Copper, an essential element to our daily lives

It is now well known that copper is an essential element of modern life. Copper is used for its many properties in a number of fields, such as infrastructure, technological devices, medical devices, manufacturing, and agri-food. Technological advances are making it an increasingly popular metal.

Nearly 28 million tonnes of copper are used every year around the world. Most of this copper (70%) is used for electrical/conductive and electronic applications.

The properties of copper

  • Pure copper has the best electrical and thermal conductivity of all commercial metals. 
  • Copper is antimicrobial, and some coatings kill more than 99.9% of bacteria within 2 hours.
  • Copper is extremely durable and corrosion resistant, making it ideal for building materials.
  • Copper is versatile due its high degree of malleability. It can be formed or transformed into a range of shapes and sizes.
  • Copper is ductile. It can be stretched or elongated without breaking to facilitate processing. 
  • Copper can be recycled indefinitely without loss of its properties.
  • More than 400 alloys can be created with copper.

A few facts about copper

  • Copper is critical to car manufacturing. For example, there are over 55 pounds of copper in a typical U.S.-built car: about 45 pounds for electrical components and about 10 pounds for non-electric components. Today’s luxury cars average about 1,500 copper wires, with a total length of about one kilometre, thanks to continuous improvements in electronics and the addition of electrical accessories. Electric cars contain three times as much copper because of their rotors.
  • Copper is a natural antibacterial agent. Door handles in public buildings are commonly made of brass, a copper alloy that helps prevent disease transmission.
  • Copper oxidizes to form copper oxide, or verdigris, which is green in colour. This oxidation explains why the Statue of Liberty is green instead of rust-coloured.

Source: International Copper Association