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Science >> Chemistry for Kids >> Periodic Table
<---Nickel       Zinc--->

Elements for Kids

Copper

The element copper

<---Nickel       Zinc--->
  • Symbol: Cu
  • Atomic Number: 29
  • Atomic Weight: 63.546
  • Classification: Transition metal
  • Phase at Room Temperature: Solid
  • Density: 8.96 grams per cm cubed
  • Melting Point: 1084°C, 1984°F
  • Boiling Point: 2562°C, 4644°F
  • Discovered by: Known about since ancient times


Copper is the first element in the eleventh column of the periodic table. It is classified as a transition metal. Copper atoms have 29 electrons and 29 protons with 34 neutrons in the most abundant isotope. Copper was one of the first metals to be used by man.

Characteristics and Properties

Under standard conditions copper is a soft orange-colored metal. It is an excellent conductor of electricity and heat. It is also very ductile allowing it to be easily bent and stretched into a wire.

Copper is not a very reactive element, but it will react slowly to air and water. When exposed to air, it will eventually tarnish to a brownish color. If water is also present, it will corrode to form a green carbonate called verdigris. This is what makes the Statue of Liberty green.

Where is copper found on Earth?

Copper is found in the Earth's crust. Because copper is slow to react, it is often found in its pure form. This was how many ancient cultures were able to take advantage of the metal. Today, most copper is extracted from minerals such as copper sulfides or copper carbonates.

The world-wide demand for copper has increased dramatically in recent years. This has caused an increase in the price of copper. Fortunately, copper is 100% recyclable and large percentage of copper each year comes from recycling. The number one producer of mined copper is Chile who produces around 33% of the world's mined copper.

How is copper used today?

Copper is used mostly in its metal form. About 60% of the copper produced is used for electrical wiring and cable. Copper is an excellent material for wiring because of its electrical conductivity, ductility, corrosion resistance, low thermal expansion, and tensile strength.

Copper is also used in plumbing, roofing, industrial machinery, integrated circuits (computer chips), cookware, coins, and electric motors. Around 5% of copper is used to make metal alloys such as brass (mixed with zinc) and bronze (mixed with tin).

How much copper is in a penny?

We often think of the U.S. penny as being made of copper. This is true for pennies made before 1982 when they were 95% copper and 5% zinc. Since 1982, pennies have been made from 97.5% zinc and 2.4% copper. This is because the copper was worth more than the penny.

How was it discovered?

Copper has been known about since ancient times as far back as 10,000 years ago. People first began to smelt copper from ore around 5,000 BC. The Copper Age lasted up until the Bronze Age about 3600 BC when people learned that by mixing tin with copper they could make the harder metal bronze.

Where did copper get its name?

The name comes from the word "Cuprum", which is the Latin name for the island of Cyprus. Cyprus is an island in the Mediterranean Sea where the Romans mined much of their copper. This is where the symbol Cu also comes from.

Isotopes

Copper has two stable isotopes that make up naturally occurring copper: copper-63 and copper-65.

Interesting Facts about Copper

More on the Elements and the Periodic Table

Elements
Periodic Table

Alkali Metals
Lithium
Sodium
Potassium

Alkaline Earth Metals
Beryllium
Magnesium
Calcium
Radium

Transition Metals
Scandium
Titanium
Vanadium
Chromium
Manganese
Iron
Cobalt
Nickel
Copper
Zinc
Silver
Platinum
Gold
Mercury
Post-transition Metals
Aluminum
Gallium
Tin
Lead

Metalloids
Boron
Silicon
Germanium
Arsenic

Nonmetals
Hydrogen
Carbon
Nitrogen
Oxygen
Phosphorus
Sulfur
Halogens
Fluorine
Chlorine
Iodine

Noble Gases
Helium
Neon
Argon

Lanthanides and Actinides
Uranium
Plutonium

More Chemistry Subjects

Matter
Atom
Molecules
Isotopes
Solids, Liquids, Gases
Melting and Boiling
Chemical Bonding
Chemical Reactions
Radioactivity and Radiation
Mixtures and Compounds
Naming Compounds
Mixtures
Separating Mixtures
Solutions
Acids and Bases
Crystals
Metals
Salts and Soaps
Water
Other
Glossary and Terms
Chemistry Lab Equipment
Organic Chemistry
Famous Chemists


Science >> Chemistry for Kids >> Periodic Table





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