Copper is one of the few naturally occurring metals prized for their many valuable properties. With an atomic number of 29 and belonging to the “transition metal” group, it is strong, lustrous, and a good conductor of heat and electricity. Copper has high melting and boiling points, and an elegant reddish brown color and sheen, too. It’s no wonder copper is one of the most extensively used metals in the world.
There are no known records detailing the discovery of copper, but archeological finds are littered with tools and decorative items made of copper. These artifacts date back as early as 9000 B.C. so copper was already widely utilized millennia before other metals had been unearthed. Surely, early copper materials are nothing like the copper materials of today, simply because they were mined and worked using primitive techniques, but they exhibited similar characteristics.
While copper occurs naturally, it takes several multifarious processes to extract it from the earth. After all, it doesn’t just break off from the rocks but rather it comes as one with other minerals. It’s amazing how ancient metallurgists were able to separate copper from the rest of the materials they mine using really aboriginal tools and processes.
Even with today’s advanced mining equipment, it still would require several processes to produce pure copper. Normally, copper is mixed with sulphur and iron to form different kinds of sulphide mineral or ore. Doing so makes it much easier to extract copper. The mineral that allows for the most efficient copper separation is chalcopyrite. This is because as copper is separated from chalcopyrite, sulfur dioxide gas, which is often used as an agent for the extraction process, is produced as a byproduct. Simply put, such process is producing its own catalyst.
The Copper Industry
Despite the fact that some metals, such as gold and steel, outclass copper in terms of value or production volume, it is still considered as the most versatile of all metals. It’s not surprising that copper, along with its many alloys, are utilized by countless industries. In fact, due to its extensive use, trends in the copper market has a significant impact on world economy, so much so that the metal’s global production is now being used as indicator of global economic state.
Therefore, copper isn’t to be underestimated. This unassuming metal is fully capable of shaping the world with its limitless potential. The first humans could attest to that when they saw how the discovery of bronze had exacerbated the violence of war. Today, however, the discovery of new alloys of copper has led to many technological advances, which are of course critical to the improvement of human lives.
All metals have a unique set of properties, which makes them useful for certain applications. The reason why copper is so extensively used for a plethora of applications is that it possesses really amazing properties.
- Conductivity. Most metals can conduct electricity and heat. Some, however, perform better than others. Copper is the second most electrically conductive metal, only next to silver. In fact, most of the wires used for conveying electricity are made of copper. There was a point in time when silver was preferred for this purpose because it is clearly the most electrically conductive metal, but it ended up being replaced with copper because it is too expensive and it has low heat tolerance.
- Malleability. One of the apparent features of copper is that it is very easy to work. It can be hammered or pressed into thin sheets or plates without breaking. This is why it is perfect for making machine parts with considerable flimsiness and is involved in transferring electricity. Copper plates and sheets may also be used to cover furniture, countertops, and backsplashes.
- Ductility. If you’re wondering how it is possible to make wires of small cross-sections out of copper, well, it’s because of the metal’s high ductility. This is a property that enables metals to be drawn into wires without breaking. Such property is extremely useful not only for the electrical industry but to the telecommunications and jewelry industry as well.
- Toughness: Despite being ductile and malleable, copper exhibits incredible toughness. For most applications, including piping and tubing, however, copper alloys such as bronze and brass are used instead of pure copper. This is to avoid rupture, which can be dangerous and expensive.
Examples of Copper Structures
Copper is not easy to quarry, not to mention in low abundance. This is why it is also more expensive than other metals. This is also the reason why you can find very few structures that are made of copper. Perhaps the most prominent is the Statue of Liberty in New York. The entire covering of this infamous structure is made of 62,000 lbs. of copper.
In Shanghai, the exterior cladding on a modern building at Yifei Originality Street is made of copper, too. The cladding is apparently not too old, as evidenced by its reddish brown color. Older, exposed copper materials have greenish sheen, much like the Statue of Liberty. Other structures with copper cladding include the Nordic Embassies in Berlin, Germany and the facade at the Oak Park Public Library.
Alloys of Copper
One of the most important characteristics of copper is that it can easily be combined with other metals and non-metals. By combining with a small amount of tin, you can produce bronze, and brass if you combine it with zinc. Through the years, after so many tries, bronze and brass have evolved to produce a variety of versions, which are now being used in many industries, including machine and ship parts manufacturing. It’s now quite easy to find the specific grade of bronze bars or brass channel products because newer versions of these metals are now available for many foundries.
With all the facts above, it is safe to say that copper is also one of the most accessible materials on the market. You can find copper suppliers almost everywhere. If you need high-quality copper supplies, however, all you have to do is to go to the most trusted supplier. This is where companies like Rotax Metals come in. Not only do they have decades of experience in supplying materials for all kinds of project but they also have a well-executed and fully-monitored metalworking process that ensures the quality of their products.
Copper and copper alloy production, economist.com
Copper Mining Industry, economywatch.com