copper

Importance and Uses

Copper is present in minute amounts in the animal body and is essential to normal metabolism. It is a component of hemocyanin, the blue, oxygen-carrying blood pigment of lobsters and other large crustaceans. It is needed in the synthesis of hemoglobin, the red, oxygen-carrying pigment found in the blood of humans, although it is not a component of hemoglobin.

The chief commercial use of copper is based on its electrical conductivity (second only to that of silver); about half the total annual output of copper is employed in the manufacture of electrical apparatus and wire. Copper is also used extensively as roofing, in making copper utensils, and for coins and metalwork. Copper tubing is used in plumbing, and, because of its high heat conductivity, in heat-exchanging devices such as refrigerator and air-conditioner coils. Powdered copper is sometimes used as a pigment in paints. An important use of copper is in alloys such as brass, bronze, gunmetal, Monel metal, and German silver. Compounds of copper are widely used as insecticides and fungicides; as pigments in paints; as mordants (fixatives) in dyeing; and in electroplating.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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