Copper Fact Sheets

Copper — the “Red Metal — is a naturally occurring element.  It is a reddish brown nonferrous mineral which has been used for thousands of years by many cultures. Modern life has a number of applications, ranging from coins to pigments, and demand for it remains high, especially in industrialized nations. Many consumers interact with the metal in various forms on a daily basis.

History And Properties
The name for the metal comes from Kyprios, the Ancient Greek name for Cyprus, an island which had highly productive copper mines in the Ancient world. The atomic number is 29, placing it among the transition metals. The metal is highly conductive of both electricity and heat, and many of its uses take advantage of this quality. Copper can be found in numerous electronics and in wiring.

Archaeological evidence suggests that copper is among the earliest metals used by humans. Numerous digs all over the world indicate that it was used to make utensils, jewelry, and weapons. The metal is highly ductile, meaning that it can be easily worked and pulled into wire.

In addition to being useful in manufacturing, copper is also a vital dietary nutrient, although only small amounts of the metal are needed for well-being. This metal is a popular metal used in cookware because it is highly conductive, evenly transferring heat through foods. The metal will prevent hot spots that can burn food on one side of the pan. Its cookware is also very attractive and stands out in a kitchen. Some people use copper pots for decoration and not for cooking.

One interesting property is its naturally-occurring germicidal effect. Many pathogens are killed by any alloy containing more than 65 percent within a period of eight hours. Colder temperatures cause this time frame to be extended. This fact is highly useful in settings such as hospitals, which are responsible for many cases of acquired infections each year. By simply covering surfaces with copper(CAS No. 7440-50-8) alloys, the rate of infection can be decreased.

In a natural state, copper is rarely found pure. It is compounded with other elements, and the material must be treated before it can be sold. This can lead to serious environmental problems, especially when mining companies engage in unsound practices. The chemicals used to extract it can be toxic, as can the discarded elements and runoff associated with the purification. Many countries attempt to regulate their industries, to prevent widespread pollution and the problems associated with it.