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Copper is a
chemical element A chemical element is a species of atoms that have a given number of protons in their nuclei, including the pure substance consisting only of that species. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical elements cannot be broken down into simpler s ...
with the symbol Cu (from la, cuprum) and
atomic number The atomic number or nuclear charge number (symbol ''Z'') of a chemical element A chemical element is a species of atoms that have a given number of protons in their nuclei, including the pure substance consisting only of that speci ...
29. It is a soft, malleable, and ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. A freshly exposed surface of pure copper has a pinkish-orange color. Copper is used as a conductor of heat and electricity, as a
building material Building material is material used for construction Construction is a general term meaning the art and science Science is a systematic endeavor that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and ...
, and as a constituent of various metal
alloy An alloy is a mixture of chemical element A chemical element is a species of atoms that have a given number of protons in their nuclei, including the pure substance consisting only of that species. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical ...
s, such as sterling silver used in jewelry, cupronickel used to make marine hardware and coins, and constantan used in strain gauges and thermocouples for temperature measurement. Copper is one of the few metals that can occur in nature in a directly usable metallic form ( native metals). This led to very early human use in several regions, from circa 8000 BC. Thousands of years later, it was the first metal to be smelted from sulfide ores, circa 5000 BC; the first metal to be cast into a shape in a mold, c. 4000 BC; and the first metal to be purposely alloyed with another metal,
tin Tin is a chemical element A chemical element is a species of atoms that have a given number of protons in their nuclei, including the pure substance consisting only of that species. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical elements cann ...
, to create
bronze Bronze is an alloy consisting primarily of copper Copper is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol Cu (from la, cuprum) and atomic number 29. It is a soft, malleable, and ductility, ductile metal with very high thermal c ...
, c. 3500 BC. In the Roman era, copper was mined principally on
Cyprus Cyprus ; tr, Kıbrıs (), officially the Republic of Cyprus,, , lit: Republic of Cyprus is an island country located south of the Anatolian Peninsula in the eastern Mediterranean Sea The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to th ...
, the origin of the name of the metal, from ''aes cyprium'' (metal of Cyprus), later corrupted to ''cuprum'' (Latin). ''Coper'' (
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family, with its earliest forms spoken by the inhabitants of early medieval ...
) and ''copper'' were derived from this, the later spelling first used around 1530. Commonly encountered compounds are copper(II) salts, which often impart blue or green colors to such minerals as azurite, malachite, and turquoise, and have been used widely and historically as pigments. Copper used in buildings, usually for roofing, oxidizes to form a green verdigris (or patina). Copper is sometimes used in decorative art, both in its elemental metal form and in compounds as pigments. Copper compounds are used as bacteriostatic agents, fungicides, and wood preservatives. Copper is essential to all living organisms as a trace
dietary mineral In the context of nutrition, a mineral is a chemical element A chemical element is a species of atoms that have a given number of protons in their nuclei, including the pure substance consisting only of that species. Unlike chemical co ...
because it is a key constituent of the respiratory enzyme complex
cytochrome c oxidase The enzyme cytochrome c oxidase or Complex IV, (was , now reclassified as a translocasEC 7.1.1.9 is a large transmembrane protein complex found in bacteria, archaea, and mitochondria of eukaryotes. It is the last enzyme in the respiratory ...
. In molluscs and crustaceans, copper is a constituent of the blood pigment hemocyanin, replaced by the iron-complexed hemoglobin in fish and other
vertebrate Vertebrates () comprise all animal Animals are multicellular, eukaryotic organisms in the biological kingdom Animalia. With few exceptions, animals consume organic material, breathe oxygen, are able to move, can reproduce sexual ...
s. In humans, copper is found mainly in the liver, muscle, and bone. The adult body contains between 1.4 and 2.1 mg of copper per kilogram of body weight.


Characteristics


Physical

Copper,
silver Silver is a chemical element A chemical element is a species of atoms that have a given number of protons in their nuclei, including the pure substance consisting only of that species. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical elements ...
, and
gold Gold is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol Au (from la, aurum) and atomic number 79. This makes it one of the higher atomic number elements that occur naturally. It is a Brightness, bright, slightly orange-yellow, dense, s ...
are in group 11 of the periodic table; these three metals have one s-orbital electron on top of a filled d- electron shell and are characterized by high ductility, and electrical and thermal conductivity. The filled d-shells in these elements contribute little to interatomic interactions, which are dominated by the s-electrons through
metallic bond Metallic bonding is a type of chemical bonding that arises from the electrostatic attractive force between conduction electrons (in the form of an electron cloud of delocalized electrons) and positively charged metal ions. It may be de ...
s. Unlike metals with incomplete d-shells, metallic bonds in copper are lacking a covalent character and are relatively weak. This observation explains the low hardness and high ductility of single crystals of copper. At the macroscopic scale, introduction of extended defects to the crystal lattice, such as grain boundaries, hinders flow of the material under applied stress, thereby increasing its hardness. For this reason, copper is usually supplied in a fine-grained polycrystalline form, which has greater strength than monocrystalline forms. The softness of copper partly explains its high electrical conductivity () and high thermal conductivity, second highest (second only to silver) among pure metals at room temperature. This is because the resistivity to electron transport in metals at room temperature originates primarily from scattering of electrons on thermal vibrations of the lattice, which are relatively weak in a soft metal. The maximum permissible current density of copper in open air is approximately of cross-sectional area, above which it begins to heat excessively. Copper is one of a few metallic elements with a natural color other than gray or silver. Pure copper is orange-red and acquires a reddish tarnish when exposed to air. The characteristic color of copper results from the electronic transitions between the filled 3d and half-empty 4s atomic shells – the energy difference between these shells corresponds to orange light. As with other metals, if copper is put in contact with another metal, galvanic corrosion will occur.


Chemical

Copper does not react with water, but it does slowly react with atmospheric oxygen to form a layer of brown-black copper oxide which, unlike the rust that forms on iron in moist air, protects the underlying metal from further corrosion ( passivation). A green layer of verdigris (copper carbonate) can often be seen on old copper structures, such as the roofing of many older buildings and the Statue of Liberty. Copper tarnishes when exposed to some
sulfur Sulfur (or sulphur in British English) is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol S and atomic number 16. It is abundance of the chemical elements, abundant, Polyvalency (chemistry), multivalent and nonmetallic. Under standard c ...
compounds, with which it reacts to form various copper sulfides.


Isotopes

There are 29
isotope Isotopes are two or more types of atoms that have the same atomic number (number of protons in their nuclei) and position in the periodic table (and hence belong to the same chemical element A chemical element is a species of atoms ...
s of copper. and are stable, with comprising approximately 69% of naturally occurring copper; both have a
spin Spin or spinning most often refers to: * Spinning (textiles), the creation of yarn or thread by twisting fibers together, traditionally by hand spinning * Spin, the rotation of an object around a central axis * Spin (propaganda), an intentional ...
of . The other isotopes are
radioactive Radioactive decay (also known as nuclear decay, radioactivity, radioactive disintegration, or nuclear disintegration) is the process by which an unstable atomic nucleus loses energy by radiation. A material containing unstable nuclei is cons ...
, with the most stable being with a
half-life Half-life (symbol ) is the time required for a quantity (of substance) to reduce to half of its initial value. The term is commonly used in nuclear physics to describe how quickly unstable atom Every atom is composed of a nucleus and ...
of 61.83 hours. Seven metastable isotopes have been characterized; is the longest-lived with a half-life of 3.8 minutes. Isotopes with a mass number above 64 decay by β, whereas those with a mass number below 64 decay by β+. , which has a half-life of 12.7 hours, decays both ways. and have significant applications. is used in Cu-PTSM as a radioactive tracer for
positron emission tomography Positron emission tomography (PET) is a functional imaging technique that uses radioactive substances known as radiotracers to visualize and measure changes in metabolic processes, and in other physiological activities including blood flo ...
.


Occurrence

Copper is produced in massive stars and is present in the Earth's crust in a proportion of about 50 parts per million (ppm). In nature, copper occurs in a variety of minerals, including
native copper Native copper is an uncombined form of copper that occurs as a natural mineral. Copper is one of the few metallic elements to occur in native form, although it most commonly occurs in oxidized states and mixed with other elements. Native c ...
, copper sulfides such as chalcopyrite, bornite, digenite, covellite, and chalcocite, copper sulfosalts such as tetrahedite-tennantite, and enargite, copper carbonates such as azurite and malachite, and as copper(I) or copper(II) oxides such as cuprite and tenorite, respectively. The largest mass of elemental copper discovered weighed 420 tonnes and was found in 1857 on the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan, US. Native copper is a polycrystal, with the largest single crystal ever described measuring . Copper is the 25th most abundant element in
Earth's crust Earth's crust is Earth's thin outer shell of rock, referring to less than 1% of Earth's radius and volume. It is the top component of the lithosphere, a division of Earth's layers that includes the crust and the upper part of the mantle. ...
, representing 50 ppm compared with 75 ppm for
zinc Zinc is a chemical element A chemical element is a species of atoms that have a given number of protons in their nuclei, including the pure substance consisting only of that species. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical elements cann ...
, and 14 ppm for
lead Lead is a chemical element A chemical element is a species of atoms that have a given number of protons in their nuclei, including the pure substance consisting only of that species. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical elements cann ...
. Typical background concentrations of copper do not exceed in the atmosphere; in soil; in vegetation; 2 μg/L in freshwater and in seawater.


Production

Most copper is mined or extracted as copper sulfides from large open pit mines in porphyry copper deposits that contain 0.4 to 1.0% copper. Sites include Chuquicamata, in Chile, Bingham Canyon Mine, in Utah, United States, and El Chino Mine, in New Mexico, United States. According to the British Geological Survey, in 2005, Chile was the top producer of copper with at least one-third of the world share followed by the United States, Indonesia and Peru. Copper can also be recovered through the in-situ leach process. Several sites in the state of Arizona are considered prime candidates for this method. The amount of copper in use is increasing and the quantity available is barely sufficient to allow all countries to reach developed world levels of usage. An alternative source of copper for collection currently being researched are polymetallic nodules, which are located at the depths of the
Pacific Ocean The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth's five oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Southern Ocean (or, depending on definition, to Antarctica) in the south, and is bounded by the conti ...
approximately 3000–6500 meters below sea level. These nodules contain other valuable metals such as cobalt and
nickel Nickel is a chemical element A chemical element is a species of atoms that have a given number of protons in their nuclei, including the pure substance consisting only of that species. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical elements c ...
.


Reserves and prices

Copper has been in use at least 10,000 years, but more than 95% of all copper ever mined and smelted has been extracted since 1900. As with many natural resources, the total amount of copper on Earth is vast, with around 1014 tons in the top kilometer of Earth's crust, which is about 5 million years' worth at the current rate of extraction. However, only a tiny fraction of these reserves is economically viable with present-day prices and technologies. Estimates of copper reserves available for mining vary from 25 to 60 years, depending on core assumptions such as the growth rate. Recycling is a major source of copper in the modern world. Because of these and other factors, the future of copper production and supply is the subject of much debate, including the concept of peak copper, analogous to peak oil. The price of copper has historically been unstable, and its price increased from the 60-year low of US$0.60/lb (US$1.32/kg) in June 1999 to $3.75 per pound ($8.27/kg) in May 2006. It dropped to $2.40/lb ($5.29/kg) in February 2007, then rebounded to $3.50/lb ($7.71/kg) in April 2007. In February 2009, weakening global demand and a steep fall in commodity prices since the previous year's highs left copper prices at $1.51/lb ($3.32/kg). Between September 2010 and February 2011, the price of copper rose from £5,000 a metric ton to £6,250 a metric ton.


Methods

The concentration of copper in ores averages only 0.6%, and most commercial ores are sulfides, especially chalcopyrite (CuFeS2), bornite (Cu5FeS4) and, to a lesser extent, covellite (CuS) and chalcocite (Cu2S). Conversely, the average concentration of copper in polymetallic nodules is estimated at 1.3%. The methods of extracting copper as well as other metals found in these nodules include sulphuric leaching,
smelting Smelting is a process of applying heat to ore, to extract a base metal. It is a form of extractive metallurgy. It is used to extract many metals from their ores, including silver Silver is a chemical element A chemical element ...
and an application of the Cuprion process. For minerals found in land ores, they are concentrated from crushed ores to the level of 10–15% copper by
froth flotation Froth flotation is a process for selectively separating hydrophobic materials from hydrophilic A hydrophile is a molecule or other molecular entity that is attracted to water molecules and tends to be dissolved by water.Liddell, H.G. & Sc ...
or bioleaching. Heating this material with silica in flash smelting removes much of the iron as slag. The process exploits the greater ease of converting iron sulfides into oxides, which in turn react with the silica to form the silicate slag that floats on top of the heated mass. The resulting ''copper matte,'' consisting of Cu2S, is roasted to convert the sulfides into oxides: :2 Cu2S + 3 O2 → 2 Cu2O + 2 SO2 The cuprous oxide reacts with cuprous sulfide to converted to ''blister'' copper upon heating: :2 Cu2O + Cu2S → 6 Cu + 2 SO2 The Sudbury matte process converted only half the sulfide to oxide and then used this oxide to remove the rest of the sulfur as oxide. It was then electrolytically refined and the anode mud exploited for the platinum and gold it contained. This step exploits the relatively easy reduction of copper oxides to copper metal.
Natural gas Natural gas (also called fossil gas or simply gas) is a naturally occurring mixture of gaseous hydrocarbons consisting primarily of methane in addition to various smaller amounts of other higher alkanes. Low levels of trace gases like carbon ...
is blown across the blister to remove most of the remaining oxygen and electrorefining is performed on the resulting material to produce pure copper: :Cu2+ + 2 e → Cu


Recycling

Like
aluminium Aluminium (aluminum in American and Canadian English) is a chemical element A chemical element is a species of atoms that have a given number of protons in their nuclei, including the pure substance consisting only of that speci ...
, copper is recyclable without any loss of quality, both from raw state and from manufactured products. In volume, copper is the third most recycled metal after iron and aluminium. An estimated 80% of all copper ever mined is still in use today. According to the International Resource Panel's Metal Stocks in Society report, the global per capita stock of copper in use in society is 35–55 kg. Much of this is in more-developed countries (140–300 kg per capita) rather than less-developed countries (30–40 kg per capita). The process of recycling copper is roughly the same as is used to extract copper but requires fewer steps. High-purity scrap copper is melted in a furnace and then reduced and cast into billets and ingots; lower-purity scrap is refined by electroplating in a bath of
sulfuric acid Sulfuric acid ( American spelling and the preferred IUPAC name) or sulphuric acid ( Commonwealth spelling), known in antiquity as oil of vitriol, is a mineral acid composed of the elements sulfur, oxygen Oxygen is the chemical ele ...
.


Alloys

Numerous copper
alloy An alloy is a mixture of chemical element A chemical element is a species of atoms that have a given number of protons in their nuclei, including the pure substance consisting only of that species. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical ...
s have been formulated, many with important uses. Brass is an alloy of copper and
zinc Zinc is a chemical element A chemical element is a species of atoms that have a given number of protons in their nuclei, including the pure substance consisting only of that species. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical elements cann ...
.
Bronze Bronze is an alloy consisting primarily of copper Copper is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol Cu (from la, cuprum) and atomic number 29. It is a soft, malleable, and ductility, ductile metal with very high thermal c ...
usually refers to copper-
tin Tin is a chemical element A chemical element is a species of atoms that have a given number of protons in their nuclei, including the pure substance consisting only of that species. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical elements cann ...
alloys, but can refer to any alloy of copper such as aluminium bronze. Copper is one of the most important constituents of silver and karat gold solders used in the jewelry industry, modifying the color, hardness and melting point of the resulting alloys. Some lead-free solders consist of tin alloyed with a small proportion of copper and other metals. The alloy of copper and
nickel Nickel is a chemical element A chemical element is a species of atoms that have a given number of protons in their nuclei, including the pure substance consisting only of that species. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical elements c ...
, called cupronickel, is used in low-denomination coins, often for the outer cladding. The US five-cent coin (currently called a ''nickel'') consists of 75% copper and 25% nickel in homogeneous composition. Prior to the introduction of cupronickel, which was widely adopted by countries in the latter half of the 20th century, alloys of copper and
silver Silver is a chemical element A chemical element is a species of atoms that have a given number of protons in their nuclei, including the pure substance consisting only of that species. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical elements ...
were also used, with the United States using an alloy of 90% silver and 10% copper until 1965, when circulating silver was removed from all coins with the exception of the Half dollar - these were debased to an alloy of 40% silver and 60% copper between 1965 and 1970. The alloy of 90% copper and 10% nickel, remarkable for its resistance to corrosion, is used for various objects exposed to seawater, though it is vulnerable to the sulfides sometimes found in polluted harbors and estuaries. Alloys of copper with aluminium (about 7%) have a golden color and are used in decorations. '' Shakudō'' is a Japanese decorative alloy of copper containing a low percentage of gold, typically 4–10%, that can be patinated to a dark blue or black color.


Compounds

Copper forms a rich variety of compounds, usually with oxidation states +1 and +2, which are often called ''cuprous'' and ''cupric'', respectively. Copper compounds, whether organic complexes or
organometallic Organometallic chemistry is the study of organometallic compounds, chemical compounds containing at least one chemical bond between a carbon Carbon () is a chemical element with the symbol C and atomic number 6. It is nonmetal In ...
s, promote or catalyse numerous chemical and biological processes.


Binary compounds

As with other elements, the simplest compounds of copper are binary compounds, i.e. those containing only two elements, the principal examples being oxides, sulfides, and halides. Both cuprous and cupric oxides are known. Among the numerous copper sulfides, important examples include copper(I) sulfide and copper(II) sulfide. Cuprous halides with
fluorine Fluorine is a chemical element A chemical element is a species of atoms that have a given number of protons in their nuclei, including the pure substance consisting only of that species. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical elements can ...
, chlorine, bromine, and iodine are known, as are cupric halides with
fluorine Fluorine is a chemical element A chemical element is a species of atoms that have a given number of protons in their nuclei, including the pure substance consisting only of that species. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical elements can ...
, chlorine, and bromine. Attempts to prepare copper(II) iodide yield only copper(I) iodide and iodine. :2 Cu2+ + 4 I → 2 CuI + I2


Coordination chemistry

Copper forms coordination complexes with
ligand In coordination chemistry, a ligand is an ion An ion () is an atom Every atom is composed of a nucleus and one or more electrons bound to the nucleus. The nucleus is made of one or more protons and a number of neutrons. Only t ...
s. In aqueous solution, copper(II) exists as . This complex exhibits the fastest water exchange rate (speed of water ligands attaching and detaching) for any transition metal aquo complex. Adding aqueous
sodium hydroxide Sodium hydroxide, also known as lye and caustic soda, is an inorganic compound with the formula NaOH. It is a white solid ionic compound In chemistry, an ionic compound is a chemical compound composed of ions held together by electrostat ...
causes the precipitation of light blue solid copper(II) hydroxide. A simplified equation is: :Cu2+ + 2 OH → Cu(OH)2 Aqueous ammonia results in the same precipitate. Upon adding excess ammonia, the precipitate dissolves, forming tetraamminecopper(II): : + 4 NH3 → + 2 H2O + 2 OH Many other oxyanions form complexes; these include copper(II) acetate, copper(II) nitrate, and copper(II) carbonate. Copper(II) sulfate forms a blue crystalline penta hydrate, the most familiar copper compound in the laboratory. It is used in a fungicide called the Bordeaux mixture. Polyols, compounds containing more than one alcohol
functional group In organic chemistry, a functional group is a substituent or moiety in a molecule that causes the molecule's characteristic chemical reactions. The same functional group will undergo the same or similar chemical reactions regardless of the ...
, generally interact with cupric salts. For example, copper salts are used to test for reducing sugars. Specifically, using Benedict's reagent and Fehling's solution the presence of the sugar is signaled by a color change from blue Cu(II) to reddish copper(I) oxide. Schweizer's reagent and related complexes with ethylenediamine and other
amine In chemistry Chemistry is the scientific study of the properties and behavior of matter. It is a natural science that covers the elements that make up matter to the compounds made of atoms, molecules and ions: their compositi ...
s dissolve cellulose.
Amino acid Amino acids are organic compound In chemistry, organic compounds are generally any chemical compounds that contain carbon- hydrogen or carbon-carbon bonds. Due to carbon's ability to catenate (form chains with other carbon atoms), m ...
s form very stable chelate complexes with copper(II). including in the form of metal-organic biohybrids (MOBs). Many wet-chemical tests for copper ions exist, one involving potassium ferrocyanide, which gives a brown precipitate with copper(II) salts.


Organocopper chemistry

Compounds that contain a carbon-copper bond are known as organocopper compounds. They are very reactive towards oxygen to form copper(I) oxide and have many uses in chemistry. They are synthesized by treating copper(I) compounds with Grignard reagents, terminal alkynes or organolithium reagents; in particular, the last reaction described produces a Gilman reagent. These can undergo substitution with alkyl halides to form coupling products; as such, they are important in the field of organic synthesis. Copper(I) acetylide is highly shock-sensitive but is an intermediate in reactions such as the Cadiot-Chodkiewicz coupling and the Sonogashira coupling. Conjugate addition to enones and carbocupration of alkynes can also be achieved with organocopper compounds. Copper(I) forms a variety of weak complexes with
alkene In organic chemistry, an alkene is a hydrocarbon containing a carbon Carbon () is a chemical element with the symbol C and atomic number 6. It is nonmetal In chemistry, a nonmetal is a chemical element that generally lacks a ...
s and
carbon monoxide Carbon monoxide ( chemical formula CO) is a colorless, poisonous, odorless, tasteless, flammable gas that is slightly less dense than air. Carbon monoxide consists of one carbon atom and one oxygen atom connected by a triple bond. It is the si ...
, especially in the presence of amine ligands.


Copper(III) and copper(IV)

Copper(III) is most often found in oxides. A simple example is potassium cuprate, KCuO2, a blue-black solid. The most extensively studied copper(III) compounds are the cuprate superconductors. Yttrium barium copper oxide (YBa2Cu3O7) consists of both Cu(II) and Cu(III) centres. Like oxide, fluoride is a highly
basic BASIC (Beginners' All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) is a family of general-purpose, high-level programming languages designed for ease of use. The original version was created by John G. Kemeny and Thomas E. Kurtz at Dartmouth Colleg ...
anion An ion () is an atom or molecule with a net electrical charge. The charge of an electron is considered to be negative by convention and this charge is equal and opposite to the charge of a proton, which is considered to be positive by co ...
and is known to stabilize metal ions in high oxidation states. Both copper(III) and even copper(IV) fluorides are known, K3CuF6 and Cs2CuF6, respectively. Some copper proteins form oxo complexes, which also feature copper(III). With tetrapeptides, purple-colored copper(III) complexes are stabilized by the deprotonated amide ligands. Complexes of copper(III) are also found as intermediates in reactions of organocopper compounds. For example, in the Kharasch–Sosnovsky reaction.


History

A timeline of copper illustrates how this metal has advanced human civilization for the past 11,000 years.


Prehistoric


Copper Age

Copper occurs naturally as native metallic copper and was known to some of the oldest civilizations on record. The history of copper use dates to 9000 BC in the Middle East; a copper pendant was found in northern Iraq that dates to 8700 BC. Evidence suggests that gold and meteoric iron (but not smelted iron) were the only metals used by humans before copper. The history of copper metallurgy is thought to follow this sequence: First, cold working of native copper, then annealing,
smelting Smelting is a process of applying heat to ore, to extract a base metal. It is a form of extractive metallurgy. It is used to extract many metals from their ores, including silver Silver is a chemical element A chemical element ...
, and, finally, lost-wax casting. In southeastern
Anatolia Anatolia, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau, also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula A peninsula (; ) is a landform that extends from a mainland and is surrounded by water on most, but not all of its borders. ...
, all four of these techniques appear more or less simultaneously at the beginning of the
Neolithic The Neolithic period, or New Stone Age, is an Old World archaeological period and the final division of the Stone Age. It saw the Neolithic Revolution, a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in several p ...
c. 7500 BC. Copper smelting was independently invented in different places. It was probably discovered in China before 2800 BC, in Central America around 600 AD, and in West Africa about the 9th or 10th century AD. Investment casting was invented in 4500–4000 BC in Southeast Asia and carbon dating has established mining at Alderley Edge in Cheshire, UK, at 2280 to 1890 BC. Ötzi the Iceman, a male dated from 3300 to 3200 BC, was found with an axe with a copper head 99.7% pure; high levels of
arsenic Arsenic is a chemical element with the symbol As and atomic number 33. Arsenic occurs in many minerals, usually in combination with sulfur and metals, but also as a pure elemental crystal A crystal or crystalline solid is a solid ...
in his hair suggest an involvement in copper smelting. Experience with copper has assisted the development of other metals; in particular, copper smelting led to the discovery of iron smelting. Production in the Old Copper Complex in Michigan and Wisconsin is dated between 6000 and 3000 BC.Pleger, Thomas C. "A Brief Introduction to the Old Copper Complex of the Western Great Lakes: 4000–1000 BC",
Proceedings of the Twenty-Seventh Annual Meeting of the Forest History Association of Wisconsin
', Oconto, Wisconsin, 5 October 2002, pp. 10–18.
Natural bronze, a type of copper made from ores rich in silicon, arsenic, and (rarely) tin, came into general use in the Balkans around 5500 BC.


Bronze Age

Alloying copper with tin to make bronze was first practiced about 4000 years after the discovery of copper smelting, and about 2000 years after "natural bronze" had come into general use. Bronze artifacts from the
Vinča culture The Vinča culture (), also known as Turdaș culture or Turdaș–Vinča culture, is a Neolithic The Neolithic period, or New Stone Age, is an Old World archaeological period and the final division of the Stone Age. It saw the Neolith ...
date to 4500 BC.
Sumer Sumer () is the earliest known civilization in the historical region of southern Mesopotamia (south-central Iraq), emerging during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age, early Bronze Ages between the sixth and fifth millennium BC. It is one of ...
ian and Egyptian artifacts of copper and bronze alloys date to 3000 BC. The
Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a historic period, lasting approximately from 3300 BC to 1200 BC, characterized by the use of bronze, the presence of writing Writing is a medium of human communication which involves the representation of a langu ...
began in Southeastern Europe around 3700–3300 BC, in Northwestern Europe about 2500 BC. It ended with the beginning of the Iron Age, 2000–1000 BC in the Near East, and 600 BC in Northern Europe. The transition between the
Neolithic The Neolithic period, or New Stone Age, is an Old World archaeological period and the final division of the Stone Age. It saw the Neolithic Revolution, a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in several p ...
period and the Bronze Age was formerly termed the Chalcolithic period (copper-stone), when copper tools were used with stone tools. The term has gradually fallen out of favor because in some parts of the world, the Chalcolithic and Neolithic are coterminous at both ends. Brass, an alloy of copper and zinc, is of much more recent origin. It was known to the Greeks, but became a significant supplement to bronze during the Roman Empire.


Ancient and post-classical

In Greece, copper was known by the name (χαλκός). It was an important resource for the Romans, Greeks and other ancient peoples. In Roman times, it was known as ''aes Cyprium'', ''aes'' being the generic Latin term for copper alloys and ''Cyprium'' from
Cyprus Cyprus ; tr, Kıbrıs (), officially the Republic of Cyprus,, , lit: Republic of Cyprus is an island country located south of the Anatolian Peninsula in the eastern Mediterranean Sea The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to th ...
, where much copper was mined. The phrase was simplified to ''cuprum'', hence the English ''copper''.
Aphrodite Aphrodite ( ; grc-gre, Ἀφροδίτη, Aphrodítē; , , ) is an ancient Greek goddess associated with love, lust, beauty, pleasure, passion, and procreation. She was syncretized with the Roman goddess . Aphrodite's major symbols inc ...
(
Venus Venus is the second planet from the Sun. It is sometimes called Earth's "sister" or "twin" planet as it is almost as large and has a similar composition. As an interior planet to Earth, Venus (like Mercury) appears in Earth's sky never ...
in Rome) represented copper in mythology and alchemy because of its lustrous beauty and its ancient use in producing mirrors; Cyprus, the source of copper, was sacred to the goddess. The seven heavenly bodies known to the ancients were associated with the seven metals known in antiquity, and Venus was assigned to copper, both because of the connection to the goddess and because Venus was the brightest heavenly body after the Sun and Moon and so corresponded to the most lustrous and desirable metal after gold and silver. Copper was first mined in ancient Britain as early as 2100 BC. Mining at the largest of these mines, the Great Orme, continued into the late Bronze Age. Mining seems to have been largely restricted to supergene ores, which were easier to smelt. The rich copper deposits of Cornwall seem to have been largely untouched, in spite of extensive
tin Tin is a chemical element A chemical element is a species of atoms that have a given number of protons in their nuclei, including the pure substance consisting only of that species. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical elements cann ...
mining in the region, for reasons likely social and political rather than technological. In North America, copper mining began with marginal workings by Native Americans. Native copper is known to have been extracted from sites on Isle Royale with primitive stone tools between 800 and 1600. Copper metallurgy was flourishing in South America, particularly in Peru around 1000 AD. Copper burial ornamentals from the 15th century have been uncovered, but the metal's commercial production did not start until the early 20th century. The cultural role of copper has been important, particularly in currency. Romans in the 6th through 3rd centuries BC used copper lumps as money. At first, the copper itself was valued, but gradually the shape and look of the copper became more important.
Julius Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; ; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC), was a Roman people, Roman general and statesman. A member of the First Triumvirate, Caesar led the Roman armies in the Gallic Wars before defeating his political rival Pompey in Caes ...
had his own coins made from brass, while Octavianus Augustus Caesar's coins were made from Cu-Pb-Sn alloys. With an estimated annual output of around 15,000 t, Roman copper mining and smelting activities reached a scale unsurpassed until the time of the
Industrial Revolution The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in Great Britain, continental Europe, and the United States, that occurred during the period from around 1760 to about 1820–1840. This transition included going f ...
; the provinces most intensely mined were those of Hispania,
Cyprus Cyprus ; tr, Kıbrıs (), officially the Republic of Cyprus,, , lit: Republic of Cyprus is an island country located south of the Anatolian Peninsula in the eastern Mediterranean Sea The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to th ...
and in Central Europe. The gates of the Temple of Jerusalem used Corinthian bronze treated with depletion gilding. The process was most prevalent in
Alexandria Alexandria ( or ; ar, ٱلْإِسْكَنْدَرِيَّةُ ; grc-gre, Αλεξάνδρεια, Alexándria) is the second largest city in Egypt Egypt ( ar, مصر , ), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a List of transcontinent ...
, where alchemy is thought to have begun. In ancient
India India, officially the Republic of India ( Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on th ...
, copper was used in the holistic medical science
Ayurveda Ayurveda () is an alternative medicine system with historical roots in the Indian subcontinent. The theory and practice of Ayurveda is pseudoscientific. Ayurveda is heavily practiced in India and Nepal, where around 80% of the population rep ...
for surgical instruments and other medical equipment. Ancient Egyptians ( ~2400 BC) used copper for sterilizing wounds and drinking water, and later to treat headaches, burns, and itching.


Modern

The Great Copper Mountain was a mine in Falun, Sweden, that operated from the 10th century to 1992. It satisfied two-thirds of Europe's copper consumption in the 17th century and helped fund many of Sweden's wars during that time. It was referred to as the nation's treasury; Sweden had a copper backed currency. Copper is used in roofing, currency, and for photographic technology known as the daguerreotype. Copper was used in
Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a period in European history marking the transition from the Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the late ...
sculpture, and was used to construct the Statue of Liberty; copper continues to be used in construction of various types. Copper plating and copper sheathing were widely used to protect the under-water hulls of ships, a technique pioneered by the British Admiralty in the 18th century. The Norddeutsche Affinerie in Hamburg was the first modern electroplating plant, starting its production in 1876. The German scientist Gottfried Osann invented powder metallurgy in 1830 while determining the metal's atomic mass; around then it was discovered that the amount and type of alloying element (e.g., tin) to copper would affect bell tones. During the rise in demand for copper for the Age of Electricity, from the 1880s until the Great Depression of the 1930s, the United States produced one third to half the world's newly mined copper. Major districts included the Keweenaw district of northern Michigan, primarily native copper deposits, which was eclipsed by the vast sulphide deposits of Butte, Montana in the late 1880s, which itself was eclipsed by porphyry deposits of the Souhwest United States, especially at Bingham Canyon, Utah and Morenci, Arizona. Introduction of open pit steam shovel mining and innovations in smelting, refining, flotation concentration and other processing steps led to mass production. Early in the twentieth century, Arizona ranked first, followed by
Montana Montana () is a state in the Mountain West division of the Western United States. It is bordered by Idaho to the west, North Dakota and South Dakota to the east, Wyoming to the south, and the Canadian provinces of Alberta Alb ...
, then
Utah Utah ( , ) is a state in the Mountain West subregion of the Western United States. Utah is a landlocked U.S. state bordered to its east by Colorado, to its northeast by Wyoming, to its north by Idaho Idaho ( ) is a state in ...
and
Michigan Michigan () is a state in the Great Lakes region of the upper Midwestern United States. With a population of nearly 10.12 million and an area of nearly , Michigan is the 10th-largest state by population, the 11th-largest by area, and t ...
. Flash smelting was developed by Outokumpu in Finland and first applied at Harjavalta in 1949; the energy-efficient process accounts for 50% of the world's primary copper production. The Intergovernmental Council of Copper Exporting Countries, formed in 1967 by Chile, Peru, Zaire and Zambia, operated in the copper market as OPEC does in oil, though it never achieved the same influence, particularly because the second-largest producer, the United States, was never a member; it was dissolved in 1988.


Applications

The major applications of copper are electrical wire (60%), roofing and plumbing (20%), and industrial machinery (15%). Copper is used mostly as a pure metal, but when greater hardness is required, it is put into such alloys as brass and
bronze Bronze is an alloy consisting primarily of copper Copper is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol Cu (from la, cuprum) and atomic number 29. It is a soft, malleable, and ductility, ductile metal with very high thermal c ...
(5% of total use). For more than two centuries, copper paint has been used on boat hulls to control the growth of plants and shellfish. A small part of the copper supply is used for nutritional supplements and fungicides in agriculture. Machining of copper is possible, although alloys are preferred for good machinability in creating intricate parts.


Wire and cable

Despite competition from other materials, copper remains the preferred electrical conductor in nearly all categories of electrical wiring except overhead
electric power transmission Electric power transmission is the bulk movement of electrical energy from a generating site, such as a power plant, to an electrical substation. The interconnected lines that facilitate this movement form a ''transmission network''. This i ...
where
aluminium Aluminium (aluminum in American and Canadian English) is a chemical element A chemical element is a species of atoms that have a given number of protons in their nuclei, including the pure substance consisting only of that speci ...
is often preferred. Copper wire is used in power generation, power transmission, power distribution,
telecommunications Telecommunication is the transmission of information by various types of technologies over wire, radio Radio is the technology of signaling and communicating using radio waves. Radio waves are electromagnetic waves of frequency ...
,
electronics The field of electronics is a branch of physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its fundamental constituents, its motion and behavior through space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. "Ph ...
circuitry, and countless types of electrical equipment. Electrical wiring is the most important market for the copper industry. This includes structural power wiring, power distribution cable, appliance wire, communications cable, automotive wire and cable, and magnet wire. Roughly half of all copper mined is used for electrical wire and cable conductors. Many electrical devices rely on copper wiring because of its multitude of inherent beneficial properties, such as its high electrical conductivity, tensile strength, ductility, creep (deformation) resistance,
corrosion Corrosion is a natural process that converts a refined metal into a more chemically stable oxide. It is the gradual deterioration of materials (usually a metal) by chemical or electrochemical reaction with their environment. Corrosion eng ...
resistance, low thermal expansion, high
thermal conductivity The thermal conductivity of a material is a measure of its ability to conduct heat. It is commonly denoted by k, \lambda, or \kappa. Heat transfer occurs at a lower rate in materials of low thermal conductivity than in materials of high thermal ...
, ease of soldering, malleability, and ease of installation. For a short period from the late 1960s to the late 1970s, copper wiring was replaced by aluminium wiring in many housing construction projects in America. The new wiring was implicated in a number of house fires and the industry returned to copper.


Electronics and related devices

Integrated circuit An integrated circuit or monolithic integrated circuit (also referred to as an IC, a chip, or a microchip) is a set of electronic circuit An electronic circuit is composed of individual electronic components, such as resistors, transis ...
s and printed circuit boards increasingly feature copper in place of aluminium because of its superior electrical conductivity;
heat sink A heat sink (also commonly spelled heatsink) is a passive heat exchanger that transfers the heat generated by an electronic or a mechanical device to a fluid In physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its f ...
s and heat exchangers use copper because of its superior heat dissipation properties.
Electromagnet An electromagnet is a type of magnet in which the magnetic field is produced by an electric current. Electromagnets usually consist of wire wound into a coil. A current through the wire creates a magnetic field which is concentrated in ...
s,
vacuum tube A vacuum tube, electron tube, valve (British usage), or tube (North America), is a device that controls electric current flow in a high vacuum between electrodes to which an electric voltage, potential difference has been applied. The type kn ...
s,
cathode ray tube A cathode-ray tube (CRT) is a vacuum tube A vacuum tube, electron tube, valve (British usage), or tube (North America), is a device that controls electric current flow in a high vacuum between electrodes to which an electric voltage, p ...
s, and magnetrons in microwave ovens use copper, as do waveguides for microwave radiation.


Electric motors

Copper's superior conductivity enhances the efficiency of electrical motors. This is important because motors and motor-driven systems account for 43%–46% of all global electricity consumption and 69% of all electricity used by industry. Increasing the mass and cross section of copper in a coil increases the efficiency of the motor. Copper motor rotors, a new technology designed for motor applications where energy savings are prime design objectives, are enabling general-purpose induction motors to meet and exceed National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) premium efficiency standards.


Renewable energy production


Architecture

Copper has been used since ancient times as a durable, corrosion resistant, and weatherproof architectural material. Roofs, flashings, rain gutters, downspouts,
dome A dome () is an architectural element similar to the hollow upper half of a sphere. There is significant overlap with the term cupola, which may also refer to a dome or a structure on top of a dome. The precise definition of a dome has been a ...
s, spires, vaults, and doors have been made from copper for hundreds or thousands of years. Copper's architectural use has been expanded in modern times to include interior and exterior wall cladding, building expansion joints, radio frequency shielding, and antimicrobial and decorative indoor products such as attractive handrails, bathroom fixtures, and counter tops. Some of copper's other important benefits as an architectural material include low thermal movement, light weight, lightning protection, and recyclability The metal's distinctive natural green patina has long been coveted by architects and designers. The final patina is a particularly durable layer that is highly resistant to atmospheric corrosion, thereby protecting the underlying metal against further weathering. It can be a mixture of carbonate and sulfate compounds in various amounts, depending upon environmental conditions such as sulfur-containing acid rain. Architectural copper and its alloys can also be 'finished' to take on a particular look, feel, or color. Finishes include mechanical surface treatments, chemical coloring, and coatings. Copper has excellent brazing and soldering properties and can be welded; the best results are obtained with gas metal arc welding.


Antibiofouling

Copper is biostatic, meaning bacteria and many other forms of life will not grow on it. For this reason it has long been used to line parts of ships to protect against barnacles and mussels. It was originally used pure, but has since been superseded by Muntz metal and copper-based paint. Similarly, as discussed in copper alloys in aquaculture, copper alloys have become important netting materials in the aquaculture industry because they are antimicrobial and prevent biofouling, even in extreme conditionsEdding, Mario E., Flores, Hector, and Miranda, Claudio, (1995), Experimental Usage of Copper-Nickel Alloy Mesh in Mariculture. Part 1: Feasibility of usage in a temperate zone; Part 2: Demonstration of usage in a cold zone; Final report to the International Copper Association Ltd. and have strong structural and corrosion-resistant properties in marine environments.


Antimicrobial

Copper-alloy touch surfaces have natural properties that destroy a wide range of
microorganisms A microorganism, or microbe,, ''mikros'', "small") and '' organism'' from the el, ὀργανισμός, ''organismós'', "organism"). It is usually written as a single word but is sometimes hyphenated (''micro-organism''), especially in ol ...
(e.g., '' E. coli'' O157:H7, methicillin-resistant ''
Staphylococcus aureus ''Staphylococcus aureus'' is a Gram-positive spherically shaped bacterium, a member of the Bacillota, and is a usual member of the microbiota of the body, frequently found in the upper respiratory tract and on the skin. It is often pos ...
'' ( MRSA), '' Staphylococcus'', '' Clostridium difficile'', influenza A virus, adenovirus,
SARS-Cov-2 Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS‑CoV‑2) is a strain of coronavirus that causes COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019), the respiratory illness responsible for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The virus previously had ...
, and
fungi A fungus ( : fungi or funguses) is any member of the group of eukaryotic organisms that includes microorganisms such as yeasts and mold A mold () or mould () is one of the structures certain fungi can form. The dust-like, colored a ...
).Copper Touch Surfaces
. Copper Touch Surfaces. Retrieved on 8 November 2011.
Indians have been using copper vessels since ancient times for storing water, even before modern science realized its antimicrobial properties. Some copper alloys were proven to kill more than 99.9% of disease-causing bacteria within just two hours when cleaned regularly. The
United States Environmental Protection Agency The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is an independent executive agency of the United States federal government tasked with environmental protection matters. President Richard Nixon proposed the establishment of EPA on July 9, 1970; it ...
(EPA) has approved the registrations of these copper alloys as " antimicrobial materials with public health benefits"; that approval allows manufacturers to make legal claims to the public health benefits of products made of registered alloys. In addition, the EPA has approved a long list of antimicrobial copper products made from these alloys, such as bedrails, handrails, over-bed tables, sinks,
faucets A tap (also spigot or faucet: see usage variations) is a valve controlling the release of a liquid A liquid is a nearly incompressible fluid that conforms to the shape of its container but retains a (nearly) constant volume indepen ...
, door knobs, toilet hardware, computer keyboards, health club equipment, and shopping cart handles (for a comprehensive list, see: Antimicrobial copper-alloy touch surfaces#Approved products). Copper doorknobs are used by hospitals to reduce the transfer of disease, and Legionnaires' disease is suppressed by copper tubing in plumbing systems. Antimicrobial copper alloy products are now being installed in healthcare facilities in the U.K., Ireland, Japan, Korea, France, Denmark, and Brazil, as well as being called for in the US, and in the subway transit system in Santiago, Chile, where copper-zinc alloy handrails were installed in some 30 stations between 2011 and 2014. Textile fibers can be blended with copper to create antimicrobial protective fabrics.


Speculative investing

Copper may be used as a speculative investment due to the predicted increase in use from worldwide infrastructure growth, and the important role it has in producing wind turbines, solar panels, and other renewable energy sources. Another reason predicted demand increases is the fact that electric cars contain an average of 3.6 times as much copper as conventional cars, although the effect of electric cars on copper demand is debated. Some people invest in copper through copper mining stocks, ETFs, and futures. Others store physical copper in the form of copper bars or rounds although these tend to carry a higher premium in comparison to precious metals. Those who want to avoid the premiums of copper bullion alternatively store old copper wire, copper tubing or American pennies made before 1982.


Folk medicine

Copper is commonly used in jewelry, and according to some folklore, copper bracelets relieve arthritis symptoms. In one trial for osteoarthritis and one trial for rheumatoid arthritis, no differences is found between copper bracelet and control (non-copper) bracelet. No evidence shows that copper can be absorbed through the skin. If it were, it might lead to copper poisoning.


Compression clothing

Recently, some compression clothing with inter-woven copper has been marketed with health claims similar to the folk medicine claims. Because compression clothing is a valid treatment for some ailments, the clothing may have that benefit, but the added copper may have no benefit beyond a placebo effect.


Degradation

'' Chromobacterium violaceum'' and '' Pseudomonas fluorescens'' can both mobilize solid copper as a cyanide compound. The ericoid mycorrhizal fungi associated with ''Calluna'', ''Erica'' and ''Vaccinium'' can grow in metalliferous soils containing copper. The ectomycorrhizal fungus ''Suillus luteus'' protects young pine trees from copper toxicity. A sample of the fungus '' Aspergillus niger'' was found growing from gold mining solution and was found to contain cyano complexes of such metals as gold, silver, copper, iron, and zinc. The fungus also plays a role in the solubilization of heavy metal sulfides.


Biological role


Biochemistry

Copper proteins have diverse roles in biological electron transport and oxygen transportation, processes that exploit the easy interconversion of Cu(I) and Cu(II). Copper is essential in the aerobic respiration of all eukaryotes. In
mitochondria A mitochondrion (; ) is an organelle found in the cells of most Eukaryote Eukaryotes () are organisms whose cells have a nucleus. All animals, plants, fungi, and many unicellular organisms, are Eukaryotes. They belong to the group ...
, it is found in
cytochrome c oxidase The enzyme cytochrome c oxidase or Complex IV, (was , now reclassified as a translocasEC 7.1.1.9 is a large transmembrane protein complex found in bacteria, archaea, and mitochondria of eukaryotes. It is the last enzyme in the respiratory ...
, which is the last protein in
oxidative phosphorylation Oxidative phosphorylation (UK , US ) or electron transport-linked phosphorylation or terminal oxidation is the metabolic pathway in which cells use enzyme Enzymes () are protein Proteins are large biomolecules and macromolecules ...
. Cytochrome c oxidase is the protein that binds the O2 between a copper and an iron; the protein transfers 8 electrons to the O2 molecule to reduce it to two molecules of water. Copper is also found in many superoxide dismutases, proteins that catalyze the decomposition of
superoxide In chemistry, a superoxide is a compound that contains the superoxide ion, which has the chemical formula . The systematic name of the anion is dioxide(1−). The reactive oxygen ion superoxide is particularly important as the product of ...
s by converting it (by disproportionation) to oxygen and
hydrogen peroxide Hydrogen peroxide is a chemical compound with the formula . In its pure form, it is a very pale blue liquid that is slightly more viscous than water. It is used as an oxidizer, bleaching agent, and antiseptic An antiseptic (from Greek ...
: * Cu2+-SOD + O2 → Cu+-SOD + O2 (reduction of copper; oxidation of superoxide) * Cu+-SOD + O2 + 2H+ → Cu2+-SOD + H2O2 (oxidation of copper; reduction of superoxide) The protein hemocyanin is the oxygen carrier in most
mollusk Mollusca is the second-largest phylum of invertebrate animals after the Arthropoda, the members of which are known as molluscs or mollusks (). Around 85,000  extant species of molluscs are recognized. The number of fossil species is ...
s and some
arthropod Arthropods (, (gen. ποδός)) are invertebrate animal Animals are multicellular, eukaryotic organisms in the biological kingdom Animalia. With few exceptions, animals consume organic material, breathe oxygen, are able to move, ...
s such as the horseshoe crab (''Limulus polyphemus''). Because hemocyanin is blue, these organisms have blue blood rather than the red blood of iron-based hemoglobin. Structurally related to hemocyanin are the laccases and tyrosinases. Instead of reversibly binding oxygen, these proteins hydroxylate substrates, illustrated by their role in the formation of
lacquer Lacquer is a type of hard and usually shiny coating A coating is a covering that is applied to the surface of an object, usually referred to as the substrate. The purpose of applying the coating may be decorative, functional, or both. Coat ...
s.S.J. Lippard, J.M. Berg "Principles of bioinorganic chemistry" University Science Books: Mill Valley, CA; 1994. . The biological role for copper commenced with the appearance of oxygen in earth's atmosphere. Several copper proteins, such as the "blue copper proteins", do not interact directly with substrates; hence they are not enzymes. These proteins relay electrons by the process called
electron transfer Electron transfer (ET) occurs when an electron relocates from an atom or molecule to another such chemical entity. ET is a mechanistic description of certain kinds of redox Redox (reduction–oxidation, , ) is a type of chemical rea ...
. A unique tetranuclear copper center has been found in nitrous-oxide reductase. Chemical compounds which were developed for treatment of Wilson's disease have been investigated for use in cancer therapy.


Nutrition

Copper is an essential
trace element __NOTOC__ A trace element, also called minor element, is a chemical element A chemical element is a species of atoms that have a given number of protons in their nuclei, including the pure substance consisting only of that species. Unli ...
in plants and animals, but not all microorganisms. The human body contains copper at a level of about 1.4 to 2.1 mg per kg of body mass.


Absorption

Copper is absorbed in the gut, then transported to the liver bound to albumin. After processing in the liver, copper is distributed to other tissues in a second phase, which involves the protein ceruloplasmin, carrying the majority of copper in blood. Ceruloplasmin also carries the copper that is excreted in milk, and is particularly well-absorbed as a copper source. Copper in the body normally undergoes enterohepatic circulation (about 5 mg a day, vs. about 1 mg per day absorbed in the diet and excreted from the body), and the body is able to excrete some excess copper, if needed, via bile, which carries some copper out of the liver that is not then reabsorbed by the intestine.


Dietary recommendations

The U.S. Institute of Medicine (IOM) updated the estimated average requirements (EARs) and recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) for copper in 2001. If there is not sufficient information to establish EARs and RDAs, an estimate designated Adequate Intake (AI) is used instead. The AIs for copper are: 200 μg of copper for 0–6-month-old males and females, and 220 μg of copper for 7–12-month-old males and females. For both sexes, the RDAs for copper are: 340 μg of copper for 1–3 years old, 440 μg of copper for 4–8 years old, 700 μg of copper for 9–13 years old, 890 μg of copper for 14–18 years old and 900 μg of copper for ages 19 years and older. For pregnancy, 1,000 μg. For lactation, 1,300 μg. As for safety, the IOM also sets tolerable upper intake levels (ULs) for vitamins and minerals when evidence is sufficient. In the case of copper the UL is set at 10 mg/day. Collectively the EARs, RDAs, AIs and ULs are referred to as
Dietary Reference Intake The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) is a system of nutrition recommendations from the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) of the National Academies (United States). It was introduced in 1997 in order to broaden the existing guidelines known as R ...
s. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) refers to the collective set of information as Dietary Reference Values, with Population Reference Intake (PRI) instead of RDA, and Average Requirement instead of EAR. AI and UL defined the same as in United States. For women and men ages 18 and older the AIs are set at 1.3 and 1.6 mg/day, respectively. AIs for pregnancy and lactation is 1.5 mg/day. For children ages 1–17 years the AIs increase with age from 0.7 to 1.3 mg/day. These AIs are higher than the U.S. RDAs. The European Food Safety Authority reviewed the same safety question and set its UL at 5 mg/day, which is half the U.S. value. For U.S. food and dietary supplement labeling purposes the amount in a serving is expressed as a percent of Daily Value (%DV). For copper labeling purposes 100% of the Daily Value was 2.0 mg, but it was revised to 0.9 mg to bring it into agreement with the RDA. A table of the old and new adult daily values is provided at Reference Daily Intake.


Deficiency

Because of its role in facilitating iron uptake, copper deficiency can produce
anemia Anemia or anaemia (British English British English (BrE, en-GB, or BE) is, according to Oxford Dictionaries, " English as used in Great Britain Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean The Atlantic Ocean ...
-like symptoms, neutropenia, bone abnormalities, hypopigmentation, impaired growth, increased incidence of infections, osteoporosis, hyperthyroidism, and abnormalities in glucose and cholesterol metabolism. Conversely, Wilson's disease causes an accumulation of copper in body tissues. Severe deficiency can be found by testing for low plasma or serum copper levels, low ceruloplasmin, and low red blood cell superoxide dismutase levels; these are not sensitive to marginal copper status. The "cytochrome c oxidase activity of leucocytes and platelets" has been stated as another factor in deficiency, but the results have not been confirmed by replication.


Toxicity

Gram quantities of various copper salts have been taken in suicide attempts and produced acute copper toxicity in humans, possibly due to redox cycling and the generation of
reactive oxygen species In chemistry, reactive oxygen species (ROS) are highly reactive chemicals formed from diatomic oxygen (). Examples of ROS include peroxides, superoxide, hydroxyl radical, singlet oxygen, and alpha-oxygen. The reduction of molecular oxyge ...
that damage DNA. Corresponding amounts of copper salts (30 mg/kg) are toxic in animals. A minimum dietary value for healthy growth in rabbits has been reported to be at least 3 ppm in the diet. However, higher concentrations of copper (100 ppm, 200 ppm, or 500 ppm) in the diet of rabbits may favorably influence feed conversion efficiency, growth rates, and carcass dressing percentages. Chronic copper toxicity does not normally occur in humans because of transport systems that regulate absorption and excretion. Autosomal recessive mutations in copper transport proteins can disable these systems, leading to Wilson's disease with copper accumulation and cirrhosis of the liver in persons who have inherited two defective genes. Elevated copper levels have also been linked to worsening symptoms of
Alzheimer's disease Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disease that usually starts slowly and progressively worsens. It is the cause of 60–70% of cases of dementia. The most common early symptom is difficulty in remembering recent events. As ...
.


Human exposure

In the US, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has designated a permissible exposure limit (PEL) for copper dust and fumes in the workplace as a time-weighted average (TWA) of 1 mg/m3. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has set a recommended exposure limit (REL) of 1 mg/m3, time-weighted average. The IDLH (immediately dangerous to life and health) value is 100 mg/m3. Copper is a constituent of tobacco smoke. The tobacco plant readily absorbs and accumulates heavy metals, such as copper from the surrounding soil into its leaves. These are readily absorbed into the user's body following smoke inhalation. The health implications are not clear.


See also

* Copper in renewable energy * Copper nanoparticle * Erosion corrosion of copper water tubes ** Cold water pitting of copper tube * List of countries by copper production *
Metal theft Metal theft is "the theft of items for the value of their constituent metals A metal (from Greek μέταλλον ''métallon'', "mine, quarry, metal") is a material that, when freshly prepared, polished, or fractured, shows a lustrous ...
** Operation Tremor * Anaconda Copper * Antofagasta PLC * Codelco * El Boleo mine * Grasberg mine


References


Notes


Further reading

* * * Current Medicinal Chemistry, Volume 12, Number 10, May 2005, pp. 1161–1208(48) Metals, Toxicity and Oxidative Stress *
Material: Copper (Cu), bulk
MEMS and Nanotechnology Clearinghouse. *


External links



at '' The Periodic Table of Videos'' (University of Nottingham)
Copper and compounds fact sheet
from the National Pollutant Inventory of Australia
Copper.org
– official website of the Copper Development Association with an extensive site of properties and uses of copper
Price history of copper, according to the IMF
{{good article Chemical elements Transition metals Dietary minerals Electrical conductors Cubic minerals Crystals in space group 225 Native element minerals Symbols of Arizona Chemical elements with face-centered cubic structure