Copper (Cu)
 
 
 
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu (from Latin: cuprum) and atomic number 29.   It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity.   Pure copper is soft and malleable; a freshly exposed surface has a reddish-orange color.   It is used as a conductor of heat and electricity, a building material, and a constituent of various metal alloys.   Copper compounds burn with a distinctive green flame. This is copper (I) chloride.   Copper metal is extracted from an acidic solution of copper nitrate.  
 
The metal and its alloys have been used for thousands of years.   In the Roman era, copper was principally mined on Cyprus, hence the origin of the name of the metal as сyprium (metal of Cyprus), later shortened to сuprum.   Its compounds are commonly encountered as copper(II) salts, which often impart blue or green colors to minerals such as azurite and turquoise and have been widely used historically as pigments. Architectural structures built with copper corrode to give green verdigris (or patina).   Decorative art prominently features copper, both by itself and as part of pigments.
 
Copper is essential to all living organisms as a trace dietary mineral because it is a key constituent of the respiratory enzyme complex cytochrome c oxidase.   In mollusks and crustacea copper is a constituent of the blood pigment hemocyanin, which is replaced by the iron-complexed hemoglobin in fish and other vertebrates.   The main areas where copper is found in vertebrate animals are liver, muscle and bone.   In sufficient concentration, copper compounds are poisonous to higher organisms and are used as bacteriostatic substances, fungicides, and wood preservatives.
 
Of all the metals, copper is the one most likely to be found in its native state, often released by the chemical reaction of its ores.   Although only small amounts of native copper can be found, there was enough available for our ancestors to discover the metal and begin using it.   Copper has been used by humans for as many as ten thousand years.  Beads made from native copper dating from the eighth millennium BC have been found in Turkey.   Crucibles and slags found in Europe suggest that smelting of copper (producing the metal from its ores) took place in the fifth millennium BC.  
As a result of its excellent electrical conductivity, copper’s most common use is in electrical equipment such as wiring and motors. Because it corrodes slowly, copper is used in roofing, guttering, and as rainspouts on buildings. It is also used in plumbing and in cookware and cooking utensils. Commercially important alloys such as brass and bronze are made with copper and other metals. Gun metals and American coins are copper alloys. Copper sulfate is used as a fungicide and as an algicide in rivers, lakes and ponds. Copper oxide in Fehling’s solution is widely used in tests for the presence of monosaccharides (simple sugars).
 
Copper mining and smelting were commonplace by 4,500 BC in the Balkans – Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia and Turkey.
 
The Copper Age sits between the Neolithic (Stone) and Bronze Ages.   It took place at different times in different cultures, when people began using copper tools alongside stone tools.   The Copper Age was followed by the Bronze Age, when people learned that by adding tin to copper, a harder metal that is also more easily cast was formed.    Again, this happened at different times in different locations in the world.
 
 
Appearance and Characteristics
 
Harmful effects:
 
Copper is essential in all plants and animals.  Excess copper is, however, toxic.   Cooking acidic food in copper pots can cause toxicity.   Copper cookware should be lined to prevent ingestion of toxic verdigris (compounds formed when copper corrodes).
 
Characteristics:
 
Copper is a reddish orange, soft metal that takes on a bright metallic luster.   It is malleable, ductile, and an excellent conductor of heat and electricity – only silver has a higher electrical conductivity than copper.   Copper surfaces exposed to air gradually tarnish to a dull, brownish color.   If water and air are present, copper will slowly corrode to form the carbonate verdigris often seen on roofs and statues.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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