Copper (CU) is a critical element for human health and is an integral component in many of the products we utilize in our daily lives. Learn more about some of Copper's various usages and importance below!
A Brief History
Copper is considered the first metal to have been utilized by humans dating back over 10,000 years; a copper pendant discovered in modern northern Iraq is dated to approximately 8700 BC provides this basic dating. It is assumed that the Neolithic man began using copper as a substitute for stone around 8000 BC. More complex usages, facilitated by the application of metallurgy and casting, has been discovered in Egypt as early as 4000 BC. Using fire and charcoal, the smelting and alloying of copper began leading to the copper-tin alloy of Bronze, giving rise to the historic and progressive Bronze Age (3200-600 BC).
The origins of the word Copper has its roots in Roman history as they obtained copper from Cyprus, and was thus known as aes Cyprium, meaning “metal of Cyprus.” In time this was shortened to cyprium, turned coprum, and eventually termed copper as it is known today.
Traders the world over relied upon coins made of copper or its alloys as currency for transactions. This legacy continues today throughout the world as many coins continue to be made, in large part, of copper. The Royal Canadian Mint issued pennies that were from 95-98% copper until 1996 at which point alloys replaced copper as the primary element. Although the US penny now only contains only 2.6% copper, the nickel is contains 75% copper, while the dime and quarter, contain 91.67% copper.
- Electronics (smartphones, televisions, computers, stereos, etc.), cellular towers, transmission systems, etc.
- Modern smartphones contain roughly 14 grams of copper, more than all the other metals required for production combined, and accounting for more than 12% of your phone’s total weight.
- With increased sophistication and advancement in mobile technologies and products, the Copper amount of copper required for their production will continue to rise.
Information and Technology
- IBM and other major computer firms, use copper instead of aluminum in their most powerful computer chips on account of copper’s superior electrical conductivity. Doing so enables conductor channel lengths and widths to be significantly reduced resulting in much faster operating speeds and greater circuit integration – upwards of 400 million transistors can be packed onto a single chip while power requirements are now reduced to less than 1.8 volts, and have a much cooler running temperature.
- Heat is the greatest contributor to electronic component failure. Copper’s thermal conductivity, or capacity to conduct heat, is about 60 percent greater than that of aluminum permitting it to dissipate heat significantly quicker. As a rule, the lower the operating temperature of a processor, the greater the efficiency and longevity.
- Electrically powered subway cars, trolleys, and buses contain between 285 kilograms (kg) and 4173kg of copper each, accounting for an average of 1043kg pounds per unit.
- In 1948, the average family car contained approximately 55 wires amounting to an average total length of 46 metres, while current luxury cars average 1,500 copper wires totalling 1.7 kilometres in length. This equates to 23 kilograms (kg) of copper, 18kg for electrical and about 5kg for nonelectrical components.
- Hybrid cars, such as the Toyota Prius, contain upwards of 27kg of copper per vehicle while fully electric cars, which require much more electrical componentry and wiring, require significantly more copper. It is expected that future generations of hybrid and electric cars will require even more copper in an attempt to increase efficiency.
- Learn how copper rotor induction motors are revolutionizing the hybrid/electric vehicles.
- Copper also contributes to engine function and longevity as a critical antioxidant additive in motor and crankcase lubricants.
- An average motorized farm vehicle contains 29kg of copper, while construction vehicles an average 30kg.
- An electric forklift truck contains approximately 59kg.
- A US Navy Triton-class nuclear submarine uses approximately 90,720kg of copper.
- About 2%, or 4080kg, of the total weight of a Boeing 747-200 jet plane is attributable to copper; this includes the 632,000 feet of copper wire.
- The H.M.S. Beagle, used by Charles Darwin for his historic voyages around the world, was built in 1825 with copper skins below the water line. The copper sheathing extended hull life and protected against barnacles and other kinds of biofouling. Today, most seagoing vessels use a copper-containing paint for hull protection.
Human Health and Nutrition
- Copper is an essential element to human metabolism and has a Health Canada recommended daily intake of 2 milligrams for adults, or 30 µg/kg body weight per day.
- Copper is needed for the normal growth and development of human fetuses, infants and children; while in adults, it is integral for the growth, development and maintenance of bone, connective tissue, brain, heart and many other body organs.
- It is also involved in the formation of red blood cells, the absorption and utilization of iron, and the synthesis and release of life-sustaining proteins and enzymes. These enzymes produce cellular energy and regulate nerve transmission, blood clotting and oxygen transport.
- Copper is also known to stimulate the immune system, help repair injured tissues and promote healing. Copper has been shown to help neutralize “free radicals,” which can cause severe damage to cells.
- It is essential for the normal utilization (metabolism) of iron, because of the requirement of ferroxidase (ceruloplasmin) for iron transport.
- According to Health Canada, a deficiency of copper in one’s diet, less than about 2 mg/day, is often accompanied by anaemia, resulting from the inability of reticulocytes to obtain iron from transferrin and to synthesize haem from iron(III) and protoporphyrin at a normal rate.
- Copper-rich foods include: grains, nuts and seeds, organ meats such as liver and kidneys, shellfish, dried fruits, legume vegetables (eg: string beans, squash, potatoes), chicken and some unexpected and delightful sources such as cocoa and chocolate. Vegetarians generally get ample copper from their diet.
- Copper vessels optimal for brewing beer and the distillation process for fine liquors as the element helps to maintain the distillates’ sweetness by removing unpleasant tasting sulfur-based compounds from the alcohol. The use of copper brewing vessels is estimated to have begun around 2000 B.C., during the middle of the Bronze Age.
- Find out what foods have the highest concentration of Copper.
Health, Medicine, and Science
- Medical equipment (scalpels and other surgical utensils, antimicrobial agent and coating in hospitals and medical facilities, medical imagery equipment (MRI, XRay, etc.);
Industrial Activities and Manufacturing
- Electrical generation and transportation (wires, electrical components, transformers, PV (solar) panels, power stations, etc.);
Copper is found throughout the home as well, have a look!