I’m pretty sure you know what copper is. After all, it’s found in a lot of the things we come across in our day-to-day experiences.
Copper wires. Copper plumbing. Doorknobs. Sterling silver. Flatware (dining utensils). Electromagnets; electromagnetic motors; the steam engine; spare change (coins); brass musical instruments; ceramic glazes; electrical relays, busbars, and switches; mildew killer; vacuum tubes; cathode ray tubes; spare change; and tons more.
Copper is also used as a biostatic liner in hospitals and ships. Bacteria and living things will not grow on biostatic surfaces. Doorknobs are made of copper in hospitals to help prevent disease transfer. Ships are lined with copper so that barnacles and mussels will not cling to its outside surfaces.
Fun fact of the day: The Statue of Liberty contains 179,000 pounds of copper.
Rumor even has it that sucking on a copper penny will let the breathalyzer test read 0.
In fact, I bet copper has been ingrained in each of our minds because of the existence of Chemistry class in our high school curriculum.
Copper isn’t always that red element with a bright lustre and shine you see almost everywhere. Sometimes it comes in a blue solution of copper ions. Sometimes it’s mixed in with other metals, such as otherwise pure bricks of gold, because gold is much too soft to keep in brick forms all by themselves.
Copper has been used since the dawn of the most ancient civilizations. It may well be the oldest metal in use, being utilized by the people for over ten thousand years. In fact, for five millenia ancient civilizations did not know any other metal.
Because of its malleability they simply hammered out the native ore into the shapes they desired, usually containers. It was called “chalkos” in Greek times. In Roman times the term was “Cyprium,” from which copper’s symbol in the periodic table of elements is derived.
So how is copper extracted from the earth’s crust? Native copper is mineral form, and they are found in ores, being extracted from open-pit mines. The ores are extracted from a hard, igneous rock containing crystals called porphyry. Even then, the amount of copper you can extract is as little as 0.4 to 1 percent.
While copper is necessary for all higher plants and animals, it can be toxic if found in exceedingly high amounts. It can lead to schizophrenia.
There is an inherited illness that retains copper called Wilson’s disease, which prevents copper from being excreted into bile by the liver. If left untreated, the excess copper found in the body can lead to brain and liver damage.
Copper is surely a valuable metal to all. In fact, there was even a group that was formed, with an aim to try and regulate copper export, trying to gain the same power that OPEC has.
It did not succeed because America was never a member, it being the second largest producer of copper in the world today. It’s largest copper mine can be found in the state of Utah.
So look around you for a while. Chances are, you can find a hint of copper. In fact, there might be a copper wire poking through from your CPU right now. Never underestimate it, as surely the world wouldn’t be what it is today without copper. Copper makes the world go round too.