Copper Facts: Copper The Metal

Copper Fact 1

Copper is a mineral and an element essential to our everyday lives. It is a major industrial metal because of its high ductility, malleability, thermal and electrical conductivity and resistance to corrosion. It is an essential nutrient in our daily diet. And, its antimicrobial property is becoming increasingly important to the prevention of infection. It ranks third after iron and aluminum in terms of quantities consumed in the USA.

Copper Fact 2

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that every American born in 2008 will use 1,309 pounds of copper during their lifetime for necessities, lifestyles and health.

Copper Fact 3

Known land-based resources of copper are estimated to be 1.6 billion metric tons of copper (USGS, 2004). United States copper production largely comes from deposits in Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada and Montana. Twenty mines account for about 99% of production.

Copper Fact 4

Copper is element number 29 on the Periodic Table of Elements. It is considered a semi-precious, nonferrous, malleable metal with many hundreds of applications in the areas of electricity and electronics, plumbing, building construction and architecture, industry, transportation, and consumer and health products.

Copper Fact 5

Pure copper's melting point is 1,981°F (1,083°C, 1356°K). Its most important properties include superior heat transfer, electrical conductivity and corrosion resistance.

Copper Fact 6

Copper is easily alloyed with other metals. Currently, there are more than 570 copper alloys listed with the American Society for Testing and Materials International. They are identified by numbers preceded by a "C" and are assigned and reviewed by the Copper Development Association for ASTM. More than 350 of them have been acknowledged by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as antimicrobial.*

* U.S. EPA registration is based on independent laboratory tests showing that, when cleaned regularly, copper, brass and bronze kill greater than 99.9% of the following bacteria within 2 hours of exposure: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecalis (VRE), Staphylococcus aureus, Enterobacter aerogenes, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and E. coli O157:H7.

Copper Fact 7

Brasses and Bronzes are probably the most well-known families of copper-base alloys. Brasses are mainly copper and zinc. Bronzes are mainly copper along with alloying elements such as tin, aluminum, silicon or beryllium.

Copper Fact 8

A leaded yellow brass, C36000, also known as Copper Alloy 360 is so easy to machine, it is the benchmark standard for metals machinability.

Copper Fact 9

Because of its ease of manufacture, machining and corrosion resistance, brass became the standard alloy from which were made all accurate instruments such as clocks, watches and navigational aids. Rust-free brass pins used in wool making were an early and a very important product, as was the manufacture of gold-colored decorative products.

Copper Fact 10

Bronze is harder than pure iron and far more resistant to corrosion. Bronze is also harder than pure copper, so the Egyptians used it for weapons, armor, tools and, most famously, sculptures. It is particularly well suited for sculpture because it expands when heated (filling the nooks and crannies of a mold), then contracts as it cools so the sculpture is easy to remove from the mold.

Copper Fact 11

Bell metal, which sounds so beautiful when struck, is a bronze containing about 20-25 percent tin. Statuary bronze is technically a brass with a tin content of less than 10 percent and an admixture of zinc and lead.

Copper Fact 12

Other copper alloy families include copper-nickels and copper-nickel-zincs, often referred to as nickel silvers, along with many other specialty alloys.