Copper [Occurrence, Properties, Uses and History of Copper]


Copper belongs to the coinage metal family and is placed at the top of group 11. This metal is known to humans for thousands of years and still has crucial importance in today’s industry. Copper has 29 electrons. Its atomic number is 29 and its atomic weight is 63.

Naming and History

The name of the copper is from the Latin word “cuprum” which means “from the island of Cyprus”. In ancient times, Romans mined most of the copper from Cyprus, from where it became copper.

Archaeological history shows that humans have been using copper for 11,000 years. The copper mine at Falun, Sweden dates at least the 1200s. As it is easy to mine, extract, and refine people were aware to use it.


Copper beads have been found from Northern Iraq and Turkey date at least 8000 years old. In early times, people used copper as bronze, its alloys for making cutlery, coins, bells, sculptures, and different artifacts.

Egyptians used copper for making tools, knives, saws. Some crucibles and objects found in Europe suggest that copper was smelted in 5000 BC.

Occurrence of Copper

Copper is not reactive so it can be found in pure elemental form. Mostly copper is part of volcanic rocks and sedimentary rocks. It is the third important metal widely used in industries.

In the environment, a few natural sources of elemental copper can be forest fires, decaying vegetation.  Copper can be extracted from minerals such as copper carbonates and copper sulfides.

Properties of Copper


Copper is a face-centered cubic, shiny, reddish, crystalline metal. It is very malleable (can be converted to other shapes) and ductile (can be drawn out into wires). It is an excellent conductor of both current and heat.

Unlike other metals, it corrodes very slowly. In contact with moist air, it forms a thin greenish layer called patina which prevents copper from further corrosion. It is softer than zinc. It can be easily alloyed with other metals.

The melting point of copper is 1084.62°C and the boiling point is 2562°C. It has a density of 8.933 grams per cubic centimeter. It exists as solid at standard temperature and pressure.

Copper in Biological Systems

Copper is an essential trace element for living things. Copper acts as a cofactor and is required for the proper functioning of enzymes. In some crustaceans and mollusks, copper is the component of blood pigment hemocyanin.

High intakes and long-term exposure to copper can cause health problems in humans. It can cause irritation to the nose, mouth, and eyes and can damage the liver and kidneys.

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Uses of Copper


Due to its excellent current conductivity and its ductile nature, 50% of copper is used in electrical equipment, motors. Copper wires are best for house wiring.

Copper corrodes slowly that’s why it is used in roofing, plumbing, guttering, and as rain spouts in buildings.

Copper and its alloys are used in making coins, cutlery, dishware, tools, medals, and sculptures or statues.


Copper sulfate compounds are utilized to prevent fungus and algae growth in standing water such as ponds and water fountains.

Copper sheets were added to the bottom of ships to prevent ‘biofouling’ where seaweed, various other greenery and barnacles would cling to ships and slow them down. Today, copper is mixed into the paint utilized to paint the underside of ships.

Copper oxide in Fehling’s solution is extensively utilized in tests for the presence of monosaccharides.

Hydrated copper sulfate (CuSO4 · H2O), also called blue vitriol, is the best-known copper substance. It is used as an agricultural toxin, as an algicide in water purification, and as a blue pigment for inks.

Cuprous chloride (CuCl) is a harmful white powder that is chiefly used to absorb carbon dioxide.

Copper cyanide (CuCN) is commonly utilized in electroplating.

A high-purity copper wire harness system is used in the battery throughout a vehicle to devices such as lights, central locking, onboard computer systems, and satellite navigation systems.

Isotopes of Copper

Copper has 24 isotopes whose half-lives are known, with mass numbers 57 to 80. Naturally occurring copper is a combination of its two stable isotopes, 63- Cu and 65- Cu, with natural abundances of 69.2% and 30.8% respectively.


  • What is the atomic number of copper?
    • A) 28
    • B) 29
    • C) 30
    • D) 31
    • Answer: B) 29
  • What is the origin of the name “copper”?
    • A) Latin word “cuprum”
    • B) Greek word “kuprios”
    • C) Sanskrit word “tama”
    • D) Egyptian word “ankh”
    • Answer: A) Latin word “cuprum”
  • How long have humans been using copper, according to archaeological history?
    • A) 1000 years
    • B) 5000 years
    • C) 8000 years
    • D) 11,000 years
    • Answer: D) 11,000 years
  • In what form can copper be found in its natural state?
    • A) Oxide
    • B) Sulfide
    • C) Elemental
    • D) Carbonate
    • Answer: C) Elemental
  • What is the color of the thin layer formed on copper in contact with moist air, preventing further corrosion?
    • A) Red
    • B) Blue
    • C) Greenish
    • D) Yellow
    • Answer: C) Greenish
  • What is the primary use of copper in electrical applications?
    • A) Plumbing
    • B) Roofing
    • C) Electrical equipment
    • D) Sculptures
    • Answer: C) Electrical equipment
  • Why is copper added to ship paint?
    • A) Improve durability
    • B) Enhance color
    • C) Prevent biofouling
    • D) Increase buoyancy
    • Answer: C) Prevent biofouling
  • What is the component of blood pigment in some crustaceans and mollusks that contains copper?
    • A) Hemoglobin
    • B) Hemocyanin
    • C) Chlorophyll
    • D) Melanin
    • Answer: B) Hemocyanin
  • What is the primary metal used in house wiring due to its properties?
    • A) Aluminum
    • B) Zinc
    • C) Copper
    • D) Iron
    • Answer: C) Copper
  • Which copper compound is commonly used in electroplating?
    • A) Copper sulfate
    • B) Cuprous chloride
    • C) Copper oxide
    • D) Copper cyanide
    • Answer: D) Copper cyanide
  • How many stable isotopes does naturally occurring copper have?
    • A) 1
    • B) 2
    • C) 3
    • D) 4
    • Answer: B) 2 (63-Cu and 65-Cu)
  • What is the melting point of copper?
    • A) 500°C
    • B) 1000°C
    • C) 1084.62°C
    • D) 2000°C
    • Answer: C) 1084.62°C
  • Which property makes copper suitable for making cutlery, coins, and sculptures?
    • A) High melting point
    • B) Ductility
    • C) Corrosion resistance
    • D) Conductivity
    • Answer: B) Ductility
  • What is the primary use of copper sulfate compounds?
    • A) Roofing
    • B) Electrical wiring
    • C) Water purification
    • D) Biofouling prevention
    • Answer: C) Water purification
  • Which region provided most of the copper to the Romans in ancient times?
    • A) Italy
    • B) Cyprus
    • C) Greece
    • D) Turkey
    • Answer: B) Cyprus
  • What is the density of copper?
    • A) 7.85 grams per cubic centimeter
    • B) 8.933 grams per cubic centimeter
    • C) 10 grams per cubic centimeter
    • D) 12.5 grams per cubic centimeter
    • Answer: B) 8.933 grams per cubic centimeter
  • Which metal is alloyed with copper for easy machining?
    • A) Zinc
    • B) Aluminum
    • C) Iron
    • D) Nickel
    • Answer: A) Zinc
  • What is the boiling point of copper?
    • A) 2000°C
    • B) 2500°C
    • C) 2562°C
    • D) 3000°C
    • Answer: C) 2562°C
  • What is the use of hydrated copper sulfate (CuSO4 · H2O) in agriculture?
    • A) Insect repellent
    • B) Fertilizer
    • C) Algicide
    • D) Pesticide
    • Answer: C) Algicide
  • Which copper compound is a white powder used to absorb carbon dioxide?
    • A) Copper sulfate
    • B) Cuprous chloride
    • C) Copper oxide
    • D) Copper cyanide
    • Answer: B) Cuprous chloride
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Wrap up

In this comprehensive tutorial on Copper, we explored various aspects of this versatile metal. Starting with its introduction as a member of the coinage metal family, we delved into its rich history, tracing its name to the Latin word “cuprum” and its significant mining in Cyprus by the Romans. Archaeological evidence spanning 11,000 years highlights the enduring use of copper, from the Falun mine in Sweden to ancient artifacts in Northern Iraq and Turkey.

Occurrence of Copper

The occurrence of copper in pure elemental form, its presence in volcanic and sedimentary rocks, and extraction from minerals such as copper carbonates and sulfides were discussed.

Properties of Copper

Moving on to properties, copper’s face-centered cubic structure, malleability, ductility, and excellent conductivity for both heat and current were explored. Its unique corrosion behavior, forming a protective patina, and its ability to alloy with other metals were highlighted.

Copper in Biological Systems

The tutorial also delved into the biological significance of copper, acting as a crucial trace element for living organisms and playing a role in enzymes and blood pigments like hemocyanin. However, caution was advised regarding potential health issues from high intakes and prolonged exposure to copper.

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Uses of Copper

The diverse uses of copper were extensively covered, ranging from electrical applications and house wiring to roofing, plumbing, and sculpture. Various copper compounds, such as copper sulfate and copper oxide, find applications in preventing fungus, algae growth, and serving as agricultural toxins. The incorporation of copper in ship paint to prevent biofouling and its role in electroplating were also discussed.

Isotopes of Copper

Finally, the tutorial touched upon the isotopes of copper, with 24 known isotopes and naturally occurring copper consisting primarily of stable isotopes 63-Cu and 65-Cu.

This comprehensive exploration of copper provides a holistic understanding of its significance in history, properties, biological roles, uses, and isotopic composition.