Copper Facts: Chemical and Physical Properties

Copper Chemical & Physical Properties

Piece of native copper measuring ~1½ inches (4 cm) in diameter.
Copper is one of the elements that can exist free in nature,. Jon Zander

Copper Basic Facts

Atomic Number: 29

Symbol: Cu

Atomic Weight: 63.546

Discovery: Copper has been known since prehistoric time. It has been mined for more than 5000 years.

Electron Configuration: [Ar] 4s1 3d10

Word Origin: Latin cuprum: from the isle of Cyprus, which is famed for its copper mines

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 toxic to invertebrates and are 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.

References: Los Alamos National Laboratory (2001), Crescent Chemical Company (2001), Lange's Handbook of Chemistry (1952), CRC Handbook of Chemistry & Physics (18th Ed.) International Atomic Energy Agency ENSDF database (Oct 2010)

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