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Copper (Cu)

QUICK REFERENCE

  • Symbol: Cu
  • Atomic Number: 29
  • Atomic Weight: 63.546
  • Element Classification: Transition Metal
  • Discovered By: Ancient civilizations; known to have been used for millennia
  • Discovery Date: Known to ancient civilizations (around 9000 BC)
  • Name Origin: From the Latin word ‘cuprum’, derived from the Greek name ‘Kyprios’ for the island of Cyprus, which was famous in ancient times for its copper resources
  • Density(g/cc): 8.96
  • Melting Point: 1085°C
  • Boiling Point: 2562°C
  • Appearance: Reddish-brown, lustrous, ductile, and malleable metal
  • Atomic Radius(pm): 128

Discovery

Copper is one of the first metals to have been extracted and used by humans, with evidence dating back to around 9000 BC. Its discovery predates written history, hence the exact time and place of discovery are not known. However, it was first used in the Middle East. The name copper comes from the Latin ‘cuprum’, referring to Cyprus, which was an ancient source of mined copper.

Relation to Other Elements

Copper is a transition metal, closely related to silver and gold, with which it shares many physical and chemical properties. Copper is highly ductile, malleable, and has excellent thermal and electrical conductivity, surpassed only by silver. It is known for its distinctive reddish-brown color. Copper primarily exists in the +1 (cuprous) and +2 (cupric) oxidation states in its compounds. Its versatility and conductive properties make it invaluable in electrical wiring and electronics.

Natural Occurrence

Copper is found in the Earth’s crust in its native form, though most copper is mined from chalcopyrite (CuFeS₂), bornite (Cu₅FeS₄), and chalcocite (Cu₂S). It is also found in minerals such as azurite and malachite. Copper ores are mined extensively in Chile, the United States, and Indonesia.

Uses

Copper’s wide range of uses reflects its excellent physical and chemical properties:

  • Electrical Conductivity: Due to its outstanding electrical conductivity, copper is widely used in electrical wiring, motors, generators, and renewable energy systems, such as solar panels and wind turbines.
  • Plumbing and Roofing: Copper’s durability and resistance to corrosion make it a preferred material for plumbing, roofing, and architectural applications.
  • Alloys: Copper is used to make various alloys, including bronze (copper and tin) and brass (copper and zinc), which are harder, stronger, and more corrosion-resistant than pure copper.
  • Electronics: Copper is used in the production of electronic devices, integrated circuits, and printed circuit boards.
  • Coinage: Many countries use copper or copper alloys in the production of coins.
  • Antimicrobial Properties: Copper surfaces have natural antimicrobial properties, making them beneficial for reducing the spread of infections in healthcare settings and public spaces.

The discovery of copper significantly impacted human civilization, contributing to the transition from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age. Its continued use in modern technology, infrastructure, and renewable energy solutions underscores copper’s ongoing importance to industrial and technological advancement.

Nickel (Ni)

Zinc (Zn)