The Chemical Properties of Copper

Copper, discovered by the ancients, is a metal with a crystalline structure. Copper contains twenty nine protons, as signified by its atomic number of twenty nine. Its atomic symbol is Cu. Copper’s surface is extremely metallic. Being a reddish metal, it reflects very well red and orange light while also absorbing other frequencies. Copper is a malleable element. When an element such as copper is said to be malleable it means that the element can be bent, twisted, curved, or formed into different shapes without cracking. This non-cracking shaping can happen when the element is both cold and hot. Copper is also physically ductile. When an element is ductile it is capable of being formed into a long, extremely thin wire. These wires can sometimes be as thin as a strand of hair. Copper is a very good conductor of electricity, conducting electricity almost as well as silver and better than bronze or brass. Copper also conducts heat well. For this reason, copper is commonly seen and used in cookware. Copper has a low chemical reactivity, though. Copper is an element that will not rust. When copper metal is exposed to damp or moist air, instead of rusting, it creates a surface protector called patina. Patina is a greenish cover, as seen on the Statue of Liberty, which protects the element from damage.

Copper contains 6 isotopes, which are different atoms of the same element containing the same number of protons but a differing amount of neutrons. Copper has an atomic mass of 63.546 g/mol and an electronegativity of 1.9. At 20C, copper’s density is 8.9 g/cm. Copper is a very dense element but two other common metals, silver and gold, are located lower on the periodic table making these two metals much denser than copper. Copper has a melting point of 1083 C and a boiling point of 2595 C. When copper is combined with different elements, it normally has a charge of +1 or +2.

Copper is also very commonly seen in copper alloys. Alloys are metal mixtures of at least two metals that are even stronger than just one metal alone. There are over four hundred copper alloys. For example, when mixing copper and zinc, the result is brass. Another example of a copper alloy would be bronze. Bronze is an alloy made by mixing aluminum, silicon, beryllium, and tin with copper.

The copper production in the world has increased over the last century and will continue to rise. Copper is widely used in working areas such as agriculture and mining and will continue being important to the world for centuries to come.