Copper is a useful and versatile metal. Human beings have been making use of it since 9000 BCE. It is the second-best conductor of electricity next to silver, and it can also be made into various alloys by mixing it with other metals. Copper is also resistant to bacteria and corrosion. It is these aspects that have allowed copper to be so prevalent.
An excellent conductor of electricity, copper is used frequently in wires. These wires can end up in home electronics like toasters or microwaves as well as appliances like washing machines and refrigerators. It is also used in home electrical wiring, and as the wires in electronic toys like action figures and remote controlled cars.
An alloy is produced by mixing copper with other metals. Brass is a common copper alloy. It is made by mixing copper and zinc. Brass is used to make items like candlesticks or cheap jewelry. Bronze is another copper alloy made by mixing a little bit of tin into the copper. Sterling silver is made by adding some copper to silver. Silver-copper alloys are what some dental fillings are made of.
When copper wire is wound into a coil, its electricity conducting properties can be put to use to create a magnet. Copper is normally not magnetic, but electricity can change that as the electrons in the copper atoms begin to move about. Copper coils are part of many electromagnets including those used at scrapyards to move large pieces of metal around. Copper coils are also used in motors, dynamos and transformers at power stations and substations.
Copper also exists as part of chemical compounds. This is when the element of copper has mixed with other elements. Copper sulfate, a compound of copper and sulfuric acid, has been used as a purgative in the past, but it is now considered toxic. Copper sulfate is still used in agriculture to increase the amount of copper in soil and animals as well as a poison used on slugs and snails. Copper chloride has been used in the past to treat rheumatic fever, arthritis and sciatica. Compounds like copper aspirinate and copper tryptophanate have been used in the treatment of ulcers and other wounds.
Copper is used in the construction of buildings. It is used primarily in plumbing and roofing. It can also be used in door and window frames and gutters. Length of coppers can even be embedded in the ground to transmit heat to the interior of the building. This is an environmentally conscious method of heating a building. Copper is mainly used in these ways because it is light and durable. It is also fully recyclable, so demolished buildings can have their copper reused in future construction.
- Photo Credit Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images