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Facts About Copper

copper
Electron configuration and elemental properties of copper.
Credit: Greg Robson/Creative Commons, Andrei Marincas | Shutterstock
Atomic Number: 29
Atomic Symbol: Cu
Atomic Weight: 63.546
Melting Point: 1,984.28 F (1,084.6 C)
Boiling Point: 4,643.6 F (2,562 C)

Word origin:  The word copper and chemical symbol for the element, Cu, come from the Latin word cuprum after the Greek word for the island of Cyprus. 

Discovery: Copper has been mined and used for 5,000 years.

Properties of copper

Copper is a shiny reddish-brown metal. It is malleable, ductile and a good conductor of heat. It is second only to silver in electrical conductivity. [See Periodic Table of the Elements]

Copper has two stable isotopes: Cu-63 and Cu-65. In total, there are 28 known isotopes of copper ranging from Cu-53 to Cu-80.

Sources of copper

Some copper can be found in a natural state. It can also be found the minerals cuprite, malachite, azurite, chalcopyrite and bornite.

copper
Copper is a shiny, reddish-brown metal.
Credit: Zelenskaya | Shutterstock

Copper ore deposits are found in the United States, Chile, Zambia, Zaire, Peru and Canada. The most important copper ore are the sulfides, oxides and carbonates.

Copper is obtained by smelting, leaching and by electrolysis. Copper is commercially available at a purity of 99.999+ percent.

Uses of copper

Copper is widely used in electrical wiring and household plumbing. All U.S. coins are copper alloys, and gun metals also contain copper.

Copper is also used to create brass or bronze alloys. Brass, a mixture of copper and zinc, is used in a wide variety of applications including cookware and musical instruments, and in practical products such as zippers or screws. Bronze, typically an alloy of copper and tin, is an ancient material used in tools, weapons, building materials and statuary.

Copper is also mixed into the paint used on the underside of ships to prevent seaweed, algae and barnacles from sticking to the vessel. Copper is commonly used as an algaecide and agricultural poison.

Fehling's solution, a compound of copper, is often used in analytical chemistry as a test for sugar.

(Source: Los Alamos National Laboratory)

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