Copper is one of the oldest and easiest metals to be mined, refined, shaped and used for a variety of purposes. In the beginning, copper served as coinage and decoration. When alloyed with tin, copper led humanity out of the stone age and into the Bronze Age. When the heat and electrical conductivity of copper was discovered, the metal helped to lead mankind into the industrial age. Now, copper is used in hundreds of applications, especially in power transmission and in vehicles.
Copper is almost the only strategic mineral that is abundant in the US and Europe, making it one of the few that are not solely obtainable from other countries. Surprisingly, recycling is the major source of copper in the US and Europe today. This is because copper is also one of the few metals that retains all of its properties after recycling.
Of the industries that use copper the most, include untold military uses where the government is not likely to reveal all of its secret or strategic uses and include industrial proprietary or patented processes where the proportion and types of copper products is likely to be kept secret.
Copper has excellent alloying properties. Copper alloys well with nickel. Copper and zinc forms brass. Copper and tin forms bronze. Copper is also an excellent conductor of heat and electricity. Copper has biostatic, antimicrobial, and fungicide capabilities, too.
Transportation and music involves a lot of alloyed copper. This begins with ships that use copper or copper-nickel alloys for ships hulls because copper resists corrosion from saline water and attachment by sea organisms such as barnacles. Copper-zinc alloys form brass that is used in musical instruments, such as cymbals, trumpets and trombones.
For cars, trucks and almost all vehicles, copper or copper alloys are used for motors, wiring, radiators, bearings, brakes and connectors. From 44 pounds to 99 pounds of copper are used in cars, depending on the size. On average, about .9 miles of copper wire go into the average car. Luxury and hybrid vehicles use even more copper.
For houses, buildings and industrial plants, the electrical wiring in new houses contains much copper, although copper pipes have been replaced due to corrosion and percieved hazards from rare cases of copper poisoning.
In electronics, copper is replacing aluminum in printed circuit boards. Copper is used in heat sinks, busbars, electromagnets, switches and integrated circuits.
In medicine, the biostatic and anti microbial properties come into play, and copper is used in applications that range from antimicrobial doorknobs to cancer therapies.
In the military, copper is an important component for small arms ammunition jacketing and in alloys for shaped charges.
In summary, it is clear that copper has an incredible range of special qualities on its own or when alloyed with other metals. As a result it has been one of the most valuable of the metals since the distant past, and it will remain valuable well into the future.