General information about copper
Copper is a semi-precious metal and is characterized by its orange-red colour. It is a soft material that belongs to the group of coin metals.
After iron and aluminium, copper is one of the most widely used metals. It is a naturally occurring element that occurs mainly in sulphide ores.
The good machinability of copper results from its good ductility and formability. It also has excellent conductivity for heat and electricity. Pure copper is difficult to cast. Therefore, copper alloys are commonly used, of which about 100 different are known.
Copper is very resistant to corrosion. Nevertheless, a green-brown patina forms on the surface of the material in free air, protecting it from corrosion. When copper encounters acetic acid, verdigris is formed.
How is copper produced?
Copper ores are present on the earth's surface and are salvaged for copper extraction. The copper contents in individual ores vary. Nevertheless, appropriate processes ensure that ores with a low copper content can also be used. This is particularly advantageous if the extraction of copper reveals further metals.
Crude copper is produced during smelting, i.e. the melting of copper out of the ore. If, on the other hand, there is less copper in the ore, acids are used to dissolve the copper. Finally, the copper is purified by refining.
During copper smelting, the material absorbs large amounts of oxygen. This is reduced in the reduction process.
Where is copper used?
Copper is a widespread material which has the following areas of application:
- Electrical engineering
- Alloy metal
- Arts and crafts
- Supply engineering
- Communications technology
- Mechanical engineering
- Furniture sector
- Musical-instrument making
What are the advantages of copper?
Copper has been used for more than 10,000 years, which is mainly due to the properties of the material:
- Excellent conductivity of heat and electricity
- Easy to process: stretching, forming, galvanizing, pickling, etching, sandblasting, polishing, rolling, forging, welding, soldering, embossing, colouring
- Almost 100% recyclable
- Resistant and corrosion resistant to environmental influences
- Alloyable with metals such as brass or bronze