Chemistry - Copper


  • Copper is a soft, ductile, and malleable metal.

  • Copper has very high thermal and electrical conductivity.

  • The symbol of copper is ‘Cu’ and atomic number is ’29.’

  • Copper is known to people since (about) c. 8000 BC.

  • Copper is the first metal, which was smelted from its ore around c. 5000 BC.

Salient Features of Copper

  • Copper was the first metal that cast into a shape (in a mold).

  • Copper was the first metal that successful alloyed with another metal, e.g. copper alloyed with tin and resultantly bronze is prepared. It is done about c. 3500 BC.

  • First metal to be purposefully alloyed with another metal, tin, to create bronze, c. 3500 BC.

  • Copper has a natural reddish-orange color; it is visible once the its surface is exposed.

  • Copper is a very good conductor of electricity and heat.

  • Copper is an element of group 11 of the periodic table.

  • Copper normally does not react with water; however, it does react slowly with atmospheric oxygen and form a layer of brown-black copper oxide.

  • The brown-black copper oxide usually protects the underlying metal from further corrosion just like passivation.

  • Passivation is a process of use of a light coat of a protective material, such as metal oxide, which is used to create a protective shell against the corrosion.

Occurrence of Copper

  • Copper is commonly found in the earth’s crust.

  • In 1857, the largest mass of elemental copper (weighing about 420 tones) discovered. It was found on the Keweenaw Peninsula located in Michigan, US.

Alloys of Copper

  • The metal alloys, which have the copper as their major constituent, is known as copper alloys.

  • Copper alloys are highly resistant to corrosion.

  • The best (traditional) example of copper alloy is bronze (made by mixing tin and brass).

  • Following are the major alloys of copper −

    • Brass

    • Bronze

    • Auricupride

    • Chinese silver

    • Corinthian bronze

    • Electrum, Green gold

    • Grey gold

    • Niello

    • Panchaloha

    • Rose, red, and pink gold

    • Spangold

    • Shibuichi

    • Tibetan silver

    • White gold

Compounds of Copper

  • Following are the major compounds of the copper −

    • Cupric acetate - Cu(CH3COO)2

    • Copper(I) oxide - Cu2O

    • Copper(II) oxide - CuO

    • Copper(II) chloride - CuCl2

    • Dicopper chloride trihydroxide - Cu2(OH)3Cl

    • Copper(I) chloride - CuCl

    • Copper(II) nitrate - Cu(NO3)2

    • Copper Cyanide - CuCN

Uses of Copper

  • Copper is largely used in making electric wires.

  • Copper is used in electric motors.

  • Copper is used in roofing, plumbing, and in many other industries.

  • Copper paint is used in painting boats and many other materials.

  • Many of the home appliances are made up of either pure copper or its alloys.