Copper Uses || What Copper does to Water || How Copper is Made

Chemistry Page
13 min readJul 28, 2019


Copper is a transition element, chemical symbol Cu, English copper, atomic number 29. Pure copper is a soft metal. The surface is red-orange with metallic luster when cut, and the element is purple-red. Copper Uses

It has good ductility, high thermal conductivity, and high electrical conductivity.

Therefore, it is the most commonly used material in cables and electrical and electronic components.

It can also be used as a building material to form a wide variety of alloys. Copper alloys have excellent mechanical properties and low electrical resistivity, the most important of which are bronze and brass.

In addition, copper is also a durable metal that can be recycled multiple times without compromising its mechanical properties.

Divalent copper salts are the most common copper compounds, and their hydrated ions are often blue, while chlorine is a greenish ligand.

It is a source of mineral colors such as azurite and turquoise and has been widely used as a pigment in history. The copper building structure is corroded to produce a patina (basic copper carbonate). Art Deco mainly uses metallic copper and copper-containing pigments.

Copper is one of the earliest metals used by humans. As early as in prehistoric times, people began to exploit open-pit copper mines and used the acquired copper to make weapons, tools, and other utensils.

The use of copper had a profound impact on the progress of early human civilization. Copper is a metal found in the earth’s crust and ocean. The content of copper in the earth’s crust is about 0.01%.

In individual copper deposits, the copper content can reach 3% to 5%. Most of the copper in nature exists as a compound, copper ore.

The activity of copper is weak, and the iron element reacts with copper sulfate to replace the copper element. Copper is not soluble in non-oxidizing acids.

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Physical and chemical properties

Physical properties

Copper is a purple-red-glossy metal with a density of 8.92 g/cm3. The temperature of 1083.4 ± 0.2 ° C, the boiling point of 2567 ° C. Very good ductility. Good thermal conductivity and electrical conductivity.

Magnetic: diamagnetic

Crystal type: face-centered cubic structure

Resistivity: 1.75 × 10 -8 Ω · m

Sound speed (room temperature) 3810 (m / s)

Young’s modulus: 110–128 GPa

Shear modulus: 48 GPa

Poisson’s ratio: 0.34

Mohs hardness: 3.0

Vickers hardness: 343–369 MPa

Brinell hardness: 235–878 MPa

Solid-state density 8.960 g/cm3

The molten liquid density of 8.920 g/cm3

Specific heat capacity: 24.440 J/(mol·K)

Vaporization heat: 300.4kJ/mol

Melting Heat: 13.26kJ/mol

Thermal conductivity: 401 W/mK

Expansion coefficient: (25 °C) 16.5 μm/m·K

The valence is usually +2 and also +1 (trivalent copper appears only in a few unstable compounds, such as potassium copperate KCuO 2)

Content in the earth’s crust (ppm): 50

Content in the sun (ppm): 0.7

Ionization energy: 7.726 eV

Flame color: green

Chemical properties

Atomic size and structure

Electronic layer: KLMN

Electronic layer distribution: 2–8–18–1

Atomic radius: 186 pm

Van der Waals radius: 140pm

Reaction with oxygen

Copper is a less active heavy metal that does not combine with oxygen in dry air at room temperature and produces black copper oxide when heated:

If you continue to burn at very high temperatures, red Cu 2 O is produced:

After a long time in the humid air, the copper surface will slowly form a layer of patina ( basic copper carbonate ), which prevents further corrosion of the metal and its composition is variable.


Reaction with halogen

Copper can be combined with chlorine under ignition conditions.

Reaction with sulfur

When heated, copper and sulfur directly combine to form cuprous sulfide (Cu 2 S):

Reacting with a ferric chloride solution

In the electronics industry, FeCl 3 solutions are commonly used to etch copper to make printed circuits.



Reaction with acid

Reacts with air and dilute acid

In the potential sequence (metal mobility order), the copper group elements are all after hydrogen, so the hydrogen in the dilute acid cannot be replaced. However, when air is present, copper can be first oxidized to copper oxide, then reacted with acid and then slowly dissolved in these dilute acids. The equation is as follows:

React with concentrated hydrochloric acid

( Concentrated d stands for concentration) This reaction is consistent with the displacement reaction.

Reacts with oxidizing acids

Copper is oxidized by oxidation of an oxidizing acid such as nitric acid or concentrated sulfuric acid (heating):

( Dilute stands for thin)


Copper can act as a catalyst for some organic reactions, such as catalytic oxidation of alcohol:

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Common laboratory reducing agent (e.g. hydrogen) reduction of copper oxide to obtain the metal copper.

Such as:

Copper compound

The common valence states of copper are +1 and +2.

Copper (I)

Copper (I) is commonly referred to as cuprous, and cuprous chloride (CuCl), cuprous oxide (Cu 2O), and cuprous sulfide (Cu 2S) are common monovalent copper compounds. [Cu (NH 3) 2] 2-is a complexion of cuprous and ammonia, colorless, easily oxidized, and disproportionated in an acidic solution to form Cu (II) and Cu. Copper Uses

Copper (II)

Copper (II) is the most common valence state of copper, which forms salts with most common anions, such as the well-known copper sulfate, the presence of white anhydrate and blue pentahydrate. Basic copper carbonate, also known as a patina, is available in several forms. Copper chloride and copper nitrate are also important copper salts.

Copper (II) can form a series of complexions, such as Cu (H 2O) 4 (blue), CuCl 4 (yellowish-green), Cu (NH 3) 4 (dark blue), etc, which are also different in color.

Common copper compound

Copper Sulfate (pentahydrate, monohydrate and anhydrous), Copper Acetate ((CH 3COO) 2Cu·H 2O), Copper Oxide(CuO) and Cuprous Oxide (Cu 2O), C opper Chloride (CuCl 2) And Cuprous Chloride (CuCl), Copper Nitrate (Cu(NO 3) 2), Copper Cyanide (Cu(CN) 2), Copper Fatty Acid, Copper Naphthenate (C 22H 14CuO 4), and the like.

Copper uses

Copper is a non-ferrous metal that is very closely related to human beings and is widely used.

It is used in the fields of electrical, light industry, machinery manufacturing, construction industry, national defense industry, etc. Copper Uses

It is second only to aluminum in the consumption of non-ferrous metal materials. Copper is a red metal and a green metal.

It is said to be a green metal, mainly because it has a low melting point and is easily remelted and re-smelted, so recycling is quite cheap. In ancient times, it was mainly used for the casting of utensils, art, and weapons.

The more famous utensils and works of art such as the late mother Wu Ding and Si Yang Fang Zun.

Electrical and electronics markets

The electrical and electronics markets account for approximately 28% of the total. In 1997, these two markets became the second-largest end-user of copper consumption, with a 25% market share.

In many electrical products, (for example, wires, busbars, transformer windings, heavy-duty motors, telephone lines, and telephone cables) copper has a long service life, and only after 20 to 50 years, the copper inside can be recycled.

Others copper-containing electrical and electronic products (such as small appliances and consumer electronics) have a shorter life span, typically 5 to 10 years. Commercial electronics and large electrical products are usually recycled because they contain other precious metals in addition to copper.

Despite this, the recovery rate of small electronic consumer products is still quite low, because there is almost no copper in them.

With the rapid development of science and technology in the electronics field, some old copper-containing products are becoming more and more outdated.

For example, in the 1980s, telephone exchanges and central offices were the main sources of copper and copper alloy scrap, but the advent of digital conversion made these bulky, metal-intensive things increasingly obsolete.

Traffic equipment

Transportation equipment is the third-largest market for copper, accounting for about 13% of the total, which is basically the same as in the 1960s. Although the importance of transportation has not changed, the use of copper has changed a lot.

For many years, automatic radiators have been the most important end-users in this area. However, the use of copper in automatic appliances and electronics has grown rapidly, while use in the heat exchanger market has declined.

The average life of a car is 10–15 years, and almost all copper (including heat sinks and wiring) is recycled before it is completely disassembled and recycled.

Industrial machines and equipment

Industrial machines and equipment are another major application market in which copper tends to have a long service life. Coins and arms are the main end-users in this regard. Copper Uses

Bullets are rarely recycled, some coins can be melted, and many are kept by collectors or savers and cannot be recycled. Used in the manufacture of mechanical and transportation vehicles for the manufacture of industrial valves and fittings, gauges, plain bearings, molds, heat exchangers and pumps.

It is widely used in the chemical industry to manufacture vacuums, distillation pots, brewing pots, and the like.

In the defense industry, it is used to manufacture bullets, shells, gun parts, etc. For every 3 million rounds of bullets, 13 to 14 tons of copper is needed. Copper Uses

Used in the construction industry as a variety of pipes, pipe fittings, decorative components, etc.


In medicine, the bactericidal effect of copper has long been recognized. Since the 1950s, copper has also been found to have very good medical uses. Later, Mexican scientists also found that copper has an anti-cancer function.

In the new century, British researchers have found that copper has a strong bactericidal effect. I believe that in the near future, copper will make a great contribution to improving human health.

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Organic chemistry

Inorganic chemistry, organocopper lithium compounds are an important class of organometallic compounds.


Copper can be used to make a variety of alloys. The important alloys of copper are as follows:

  • Brass
    Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, named after the yellow color. Brass has good mechanical properties and wear resistance, and can be used to manufacture precision instruments, ship parts, and shells for guns. Brass knocks up nice voice, therefore gongs, cymbals, bells, numbers, and other musical instruments are made of brass.
  • Nautical brass
    Copper alloy with zinc and tin, resistant to seawater erosion, can be used to make ship parts and balancers.
  • Bronze
    The alloy of copper and tin is called bronze, which is named for its color. In ancient times, it was a common alloy. Bronze generally has good corrosion resistance, wear resistance, castability, and excellent mechanical properties. It is used to manufacture precision bearings, high-pressure bearings, mechanical parts resistant to seawater corrosion on ships, and various plates, tubes, bars, etc. Bronze also has an anomalous property — “heat shrinking and cold expansion”, which is used to cast a statue and expands after cooling to make the eyebrows clearer. Copper Uses
  • Phosphor Bronze
    Copper, an alloy of tin and phosphorus, is hard and can be spring-made.
  • White
    Copper White copper is an alloy of copper and nickel. Its color is the same as silver, and its silver is shiny and not easy to rust. Commonly used in the manufacture of coins, electrical appliances, instruments, and decorations.
  • Eighteen gold ( 18K gold or rose gold )
    6/24 copper and 18/24 gold alloy. Reddish yellow, hard, can be used to make jewelry and decorations.

Copper smelting and production-consumption

The copper ore mined from the copper ore is ore-selected to become a copper concentrate with a high copper grade or copper ore. The copper concentrate needs to be refined and refined to become a refined copper and copper product. The earliest source of copper ore was malachite.

Processing of Copper ore

Classification and properties of copper ore:

The raw material for copper smelting is copper ore. Copper ore can be divided into three categories:

(1) Sulfide ore, such as chalcopyrite (CuFeS2), porphyrite (Cu5FeS4) and chalcopyrite (Cu2S).

(2) Oxidized ore, such as cuprite (Cu2O), malachite [Cu2(OH)2CO3], azurite [2CuCO3·Cu(OH)2], and chrysocolla (CuSiO3·2H2O).

(3) Natural copper. The content of copper in copper ore is about 1% (0.5% to 3%), which is worth mining. Because flotation can remove some impurities such as gangue in the ore, and the copper content is higher (8%). ~35%) of concentrate sand.

Ore smelting process

Fire method copper smelting

Cathodic copper, also known as electrolytic copper, is produced by melt smelting and electrolytic fine smelting and is generally suitable for high-grade copper sulfide ore. Copper Uses

Pyrometallurgical smelting is generally carried out by adding a few percents or a few thousand of the original ore containing copper to 20% to 30% through beneficiation, as copper concentrate, in a closed blast furnace, reverberatory furnace, electric furnace or flash furnace.

After the smelting, the produced smelting (copper) is then sent to the converter for blowing into blister copper, and then oxidized and refined in another reverberatory furnace, or cast into an anode plate for electrolysis, and the grade is up to 99.9. % electrolytic copper. The process is short and adaptable, and the recovery rate of copper can reach 95%.

However, the sulfur in the ore is discharged as sulfur dioxide exhaust gas in the two stages of smelting and blowing, which is difficult to recycle and easily causes pollution.

In the 1990s, molten pool smelting such as the silver method, the Noranda method, and the Japanese Mitsubishi method appeared, and the smelting of the fire method gradually progressed toward continuous and automated development.

Smelting copper from copper ore: Taking chalcopyrite as an example, firstly mixing concentrate sand, flux (limestone, sand, etc.) and fuel (coke, charcoal or anthracite) into a “closed” blast furnace and melting at about 1000 ° C.

Therefore, a part of the sulfur in the ore becomes SO2 (used to produce sulfuric acid), and most of the impurities such as arsenic and antimony are removed as volatile substances such as As2O3 and Sb2O3:


A portion of the iron sulfide is converted to an oxide:

2FeS + 3O2 = 2FeO + 2SO2 ↑.

Cu2S is melted together with the remaining FeS to form “bronze” (mainly formed by the mutual dissolution of Cu2S and FeS, it is copper content is between 20% and 50%, and the sulfur content is between 23% and 27%. Between) FeO and SiO2 form slag:


The slag floats on top of the molten copper and is easily separated to remove a portion of the impurities. Then, the matte is transferred into the converter, and a flux (quartz sand) is added, and then air is blown in for blowing (1100 to 1300 ° C).

Since iron has a greater affinity for oxygen than copper, and copper has a greater affinity than iron for sulfur, the FeS in the matte is first converted to FeO, combined with flux to form slag, and then Cu2S is converted to Cu2O, Cu2O with Cu2S reacts to form blister copper (containing about 98.5% copper).

2Cu2S+3O2=2Cu2O+2SO2↑ 2Cu2O+Cu2S=6Cu+SO2↑

then move the blister copper into the reverberatory furnace, add the flux (quartz sand), pass air, oxidize the impurities in the blister copper, and form the slag with the flux. Remove. Copper Uses

After the impurities are removed to a certain extent, heavy oil is injected, and the reducing gas such as carbon monoxide generated by the combustion of the heavy oil reduces the cuprous oxide to copper at a high temperature. The obtained refined copper contains about 99.7% of copper.

In addition to copper concentrate, scrap copper is one of the main raw materials for refined copper, including old scrap copper and new scrap copper.

Old scrap copper comes from old equipment and old machines, abandoned buildings, and underground pipelines, new scrap copper comes from processing plants.

Discarded copper scrap (the output ratio of copper is about 50%), the supply of scrap copper is generally stable, and scrap copper can be divided into bare copper: grade above 90%, yellow copper (wire): copper Materials (old motors, boards); copper produced from scrap copper and other similar materials, also known as recycled copper.

Wet copper smelting

A boat is suitable for low-grade copper oxide, and the produced refined copper is called electrowinning copper.

Modern wet smelting has sulphation roasting-leaching-electrowinning, leaching-extraction-electrowinning, bacterial leaching, etc. suitable for low-grade complex ore, copper oxide ore, copper-containing waste ore heap leaching, tank leaching or Leaching.

Wet smelting technology is gradually being promoted. It is expected to reach 20% of the total output by the end of the century. The introduction of wet smelting will greatly reduce the cost of copper smelting.

Originally published at on July 28, 2019.



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