Copper Facts: Chemical and Physical Properties

Copper Chemical & Physical Properties

Piece of native copper
Jon Zander

Copper is a well-known element because of its distinctive reddish metallic color and because it occurs in pure form in daily life. Here is a collection of facts about this beautiful transition metal:

Fast Facts: Copper

  • Element Symbol: Cu
  • Atomic Number: 29
  • Atomic Weight: 63.546
  • Appearance: Reddish-orange solid metal
  • Group: Group 11 (transition metal)
  • Period: Period 4
  • Discovery: Middle East (9000 BC)

Essential Copper Facts

Atomic Number: The atomic number for copper is 29, which means every copper atom contains 29 protons.

Symbol: Cu (from Latin: cuprum)

Atomic Weight: 63.546

Discovery: Copper has been known since prehistoric time. It has been mined for more than 5000 years. Mankind has used the metal since at least 9000 BC in the Middle East. A copper pendant dated to 8700 BC was found in Iraq. Scientists believe only iron from meteorites and gold were used by people earlier than copper.

Electron Configuration: [Ar] 4s1 3d10

Word Origin: Latin cuprum: from the isle of Cyprus, which is famed for its copper mines and Old English coper and copper. The modern name copper first came into use around 1530.

Properties: Copper has a melting point of 1083.4 +/- 0.2°C, boiling point of 2567°C, specific gravity of 8.96 (20°C), with a valence of 1 or 2. Copper is reddish colored and takes a bright metallic luster. It is malleable, ductile, and a good conductor of electricity and heat. It is second only to silver as an electrical conductor.

Uses: Copper is widely used in the electrical industry. In addition to many other uses, copper is used in plumbing and for cookware. Brass and bronze are two important copper alloys. Copper compounds are often used as algicides and pesticides. Copper compounds are used in analytical chemistry, as in the use of Fehling's solution to test for sugar. American coins contain copper.

Sources: Sometimes copper appears in its native state. It is found in many minerals, including malachite, cuprite, bornite, azurite, and chalcopyrite. Copper ore deposits are known in North America, South America, and Africa. Copper is obtained by smelting, leaching, and electrolysis of the copper sulfides, oxides, and carbonates. Copper is commercially available at a purity of 99.999+ %.

Element Classification: Transition Metal

Isotopes: There are 28 known isotopes of copper ranging from Cu-53 to Cu-80. There are two stable isotopes: Cu-63 (69.15% abundance) and Cu-65 (30.85% abundance).

Copper Physical Data

Density (g/cc): 8.96

Melting Point (K): 1356.6

Boiling Point (K): 2840

Appearance: Malleable, ductile, reddish-brown metal

Atomic Radius (pm): 128

Atomic Volume (cc/mol): 7.1

Covalent Radius (pm): 117

Ionic Radius: 72 (+2e) 96 (+1e)

Specific Heat (@20°C J/g mol): 0.385

Fusion Heat (kJ/mol): 13.01

Evaporation Heat (kJ/mol): 304.6

Debye Temperature (K): 315.00

Pauling Negativity Number: 1.90

First Ionizing Energy (kJ/mol): 745.0

Oxidation States: 2, 1

Lattice Structure: Face-Centered Cubic

Lattice Constant (Å): 3.610

CAS Registry Number: 7440-50-8

Copper Trivia

  • Copper has been used since ancient times. Historians even call the period of time between the Neolithic and Bronze Ages the Copper Age.
  • Copper(I) burns blue in a flame test.
  • Copper(II) burns green in a flame test.
  • Copper's atomic symbol Cu is derived from the Latin term 'cuprum' meaning 'metal of Cyprus'.
  • Copper sulfate compounds are used to prevent fungus and algae growth in standing water supplies such as ponds and fountains.
  • Copper is a red-orange metal that darkens to a brown color as it is exposed to air. If it is exposed to air and water, it will form a verdigris of blue-green.
  • Copper has an abundance of 80 parts per million in the Earth's crust.
  • Copper has an abundance of 2.5 x 10-4 mg/L in sea water.
  • Copper sheets were added to the bottom of ships to prevent 'biofouling' where seaweed, assorted other greenery and barnacles would cling to ships and slow them down. Today, copper is mixed into the paint used to paint the underside of ships.


Hammond, C. R. (2004). "The Elements", in Handbook of Chemistry and Physics (81st ed.). CRC press. ISBN 0-8493-0485-7.

Kim, BE. "Mechanisms for copper acquisition, distribution and regulation." Nat Chem Biol., T. Nevitt, DJ Thiele, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, March 2008, Bethesda MD.

Massaro, Edward J., ed. (2002). Handbook of Copper Pharmacology and Toxicology. Humana Press. ISBN 0-89603-943-9.

Smith, William F. & Hashemi, Javad (2003). Foundations of Materials Science and Engineering. McGraw-Hill Professional. p. 223. ISBN 0-07-292194-3.

Weast, Robert (1984). CRC, Handbook of Chemistry and Physics. Boca Raton, Florida: Chemical Rubber Company Publishing. pp. E110. ISBN 0-8493-0464-4.

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Your Citation
Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Copper Facts: Chemical and Physical Properties." ThoughtCo, Aug. 12, 2021, Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2021, August 12). Copper Facts: Chemical and Physical Properties. Retrieved from Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Copper Facts: Chemical and Physical Properties." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 30, 2023).