More than half of the world's copper is used in the power and telecommunications industries today. The beneficiated copper ore is widely used in electricity, machinery, vehicles, ships, construction industry and civil appliances.
1. Copper applications in the electrical industry
A large amount of high-conductivity copper is consumed in power transmission, which is mainly used for power, cables, bus bars, transformers, switches, interconnecting device, connectors, etc.
Over the past period, measures have been taken to replace copper with aluminium in overhead high-voltage transmission lines. Considering environmental protection, air transmission lines will be replaced by underground cables now. In this case, aluminium is dwarfed by copper by its poor conductivity and large cable size.
For the same reason, it is also a wise choice to replace the aluminium winding transformer with an energy-efficient copper winding transformer.
The energy-efficient copper winding transformer
Copper alloys with high conductivity and high strength are widely used in motor manufacturing. The internal energy consumption of the motor mainly comes from the resistance loss of the winding. Therefore, increasing the copper wire section is a key measure for the development of an efficient motor. In recent years, compared with the traditional motor, some high-efficiency motors have been developed with the usage of copper windings increased by 25-100%.
As people rely more and more on communication, the demand for optical fibre cables and copper wires will continue to increase.
Copper wires in optical fibre cables
Residential electrical wiringIn recent years, with the improvement of people's living standard and the rapid popularization of home appliances, the residential electricity load increases rapidly. Residential electricity consumption will still have a great development in the future, which also greatly increases the application of copper wire.
2. Copper applications in the electronics industry
At present, the application of copper in the electronic industry has developed from electric vacuum devices and printed circuits to microelectronics and semiconductor integrated circuits.
The application of copper in microelectronics and semiconductor integrated circuits
Electric vacuum deviceElectric vacuum devices are mainly high-frequency and ultra-high-frequency launch tubes, waveguides, magnetrons, etc., which require high-purity oxygen-free copper and dispersion-strengthened oxygen-free copper.
Printed circuitFor those occasions that require the fine layout of circuits, such as radios, televisions, computers, etc., the use of printed circuits can save a lot of labour in wiring and fixed loops, thus requiring large amounts of copper foil.
In addition, a variety of copper-based brazing materials with low cost, low melting point, and good fluidity are required for circuit connection.
Copper application in printed circuit
The core of microelectronics technology is integrated circuits. The new microchip using copper can achieve a 30 percent efficiency gain, reduce the line size of the circuit to 0.12 microns and enable the number of transistors integrated on a single chip to reach 2 million. This creates a new situation for the application of copper, the ancient metal, in the latest technical field of semiconductor integrated circuits.
3. Copper applications in the energy and petrochemical industries
Energy industryBecause copper has good thermal conductivity and can resist corrosion by water, the main condenser of thermal power generation is made of brass, aluminium brass or white copper.
The use of solar energy also needs many copper tubes. For example, a swimming pool in a hotel near London, UK, is equipped with a solar heater, which can keep the water temperature between 18 to 24°C in summer. The solar heater contains 784 pounds (356 kilograms) of copper tubes.
Copper tubes in solar energy
It is widely used in the petrochemical industry to manufacture various containers, piping systems, filters, pumps and valves, etc. that are exposed to corrosive media.
Copper can be used to make various evaporators, heat exchangers and condensers.
Copper is especially suitable for the manufacture of heat exchangers with intricate structures and cross brasses in the modern chemical industry. Bronze production tools are also used in petroleum refining plants.
Marine industryBecause the copper ions dissolved in the water have a bactericidal effect, which can prevent marine biological fouling, in addition to the seawater corrosion resistance of copper, copper and copper alloys are very important materials in the marine industry and have been widely used in seawater desalination plants, offshore oil and gas platforms, and other coastal and seabed facilities.
Piping systems, pumps and valves used in seawater desalination, and equipment used on oil and gas platforms, including splash-zone and underwater bolts, drilling days, pump valves and piping, etc.
4. Copper applications in the transportation industry
ShipMany copper alloys, such as aluminium bronze, manganese bronze, aluminium brass, gun copper (tin zinc bronze), white copper and nickel-copper alloy (Monel alloy), have become standard materials for shipbuilding due to their excellent corrosion resistance to seawater.
Copper and copper alloys generally account for 2 ~ 3% of the dead weight of warships and merchant ships. The propellers of warships and most large merchant ships, weighing 20-25 tons, are made of aluminium bronze or brass.
The warship containing 2 ~ 3% copper and copper alloys
CarThe copper used for cars is 10 ~ 21 kg each, depending on the type and size of the car, accounting for about 6 ~ 9% of the dead weight for small cars. Copper and copper alloys are mainly used for radiators, brake piping, hydraulic units, gears, bearings, brake pads, power distribution and power systems, gaskets, various joints, fittings and trim, etc.
The electrification of railways requires a large amount of copper and copper alloys. Over 2 tons of special-shaped copper wires are required for each kilometer of overhead conductors. To increase its strength, a small amount of copper (about 1%) or silver is often added. In addition, the motors, rectifiers, control, braking, electrical and signal systems on the train all rely on copper and copper alloys.
Copper and copper alloys in railways
AirplaneAirplanes can't sail without copper. For example, copper is needed in wiring, hydraulic, cooling, and pneumatic systems in aircraft; bearing retainers and landing gear bearings are made of the aluminum bronze pipe; navigation instruments are made of magnetic-resistant steel alloys; copper elastic elements are used in many instruments.
5. Copper applications in the mechanical and metallurgical industries
Mechanical EngineeringCopper parts can be found in almost all machines, such as gears, worm gears, worms, couplings, fasteners, twisted parts, screws, nuts, etc.
Bearings or bushings made of anti-attrition copper alloy are used in almost all parts for relative mechanical motion.
Almost all elastic components use silicon bronze and tin bronze as materials. Welding tools, die casting moulds, etc. are more dependent on copper alloys.
Metallurgical equipmentIn the construction of metallurgical plants, it is usually necessary to have a huge transmission and distribution system as well as electric power operation equipment that rely on copper to work.
Copper is an important additive element in alloys such as steel and aluminium. Adding a small amount of copper (0.2 ~ 0.5%) to low alloy steel can improve its strength and corrosion resistance to atmospheric and oceanic corrosion. High-nickel alloys containing about 30% copper are famous high-strength corrosion-resistant "Monel alloys" that are widely used in the nuclear industry.
Copper: an important additive element in alloys
6. Copper applications in light industryLight industrial products are closely related to people's lives. Because of its good overall performance, copper can be seen everywhere.
Air conditioner and freezer
Relying on the good processing property of copper, the heat exchanger with internal grooves and high fins is produced, which can be used in the heat exchanger of air conditioner, refrigerating machine, chemical industry and waste heat outlet, etc. The total thermal conductivity of the new heat exchanger can be increased to 2 ~ 3 times that of the ordinary type.
The copper-made heat exchanger
ClockMost of the working parts of currently produced clocks, timers and devices with clockwork are made of "clock brass".
A modern watch factory that uses copper alloy as the main material, processing with press machines and precise moulds, can produce 10,000 to 30,000 watches per day at a low cost.
Copper alloy: the main material in a modern watch factory
The paper seems simple, but the papermaking process is very complex, requiring many steps and many machines, including coolers, evaporators, pulpers, paper machines, etc. Many of these components, such as various heat exchange tubes, rollers, blow rods, semi-liquid pumps and wire mesh, are mostly made of copper alloy.
Copperplate is used for the photomechanical process in printing. An image will be created after the surface-polished copper plate is sensitized with a photosensitive emulsion.
Copper plays an important role in beer brewing in the world. It is often used as lining for malt barrels and fermentation tanks. Some famous breweries stock more than a dozen of these barrels with a capacity of more than 20,000 gallons.
MedicineIn the pharmaceutical industry, all kinds of steaming, boiling and vacuum devices are made of pure copper. Zinc white copper is widely used in medical devices. Copper alloy is also a common material for spectacle frames.
7. Copper applications in architecture and art
Because copper water pipes have many advantages such as beauty, durability, easy installation, safety, fire prevention, health care, etc., they are increasingly favoured by people in residential and public buildings for water supply, heating, gas supply and fire protection sprinkler systems.
The Manhattan Building, which claims to be the world's sixth-tallest building in New York, USA, used 60,000 feet (10,000 kilometers) of copper tubing for its water supply alone.
House decorationCopper has good atmospheric corrosion resistance, durability and recyclability. It has good processability and can be easily made into complex shapes. Moreover, it also has beautiful colors. Thus, it's very suitable for house decoration.
In addition, its uses in the decoration inside the house, such as door handles, locks, louvers, lamps, wall decorations, kitchen accessories, etc., are deeply loved by people.
Statues and artifacts
There is no other metal in the world that is as widely used in making all kinds of arts and crafts as copper. It has been enduring since ancient times.
- Construction of cities. Cast copper alloys are used in various monuments, cast bells, statues, Buddha statues, antique products, etc.
- Modern musical instruments. The flute is made of white copper and saxophone is made of brass.
- Works of art, gold plating and imitation gold as well as imitation silver jewelry.
CoinCopper and copper alloys have been used to make coins since our ancestors used coins for transactions and it has been passed down through the ages.
The Royal Mint in London alone produces 700 million copper coins annually, which requires about 7,000 tons of metal.
8. Copper applications in high-techCopper is not only widely used in traditional industries, but also plays an important role in emerging industries and high-tech fields. Examples are as follows:
Superconductivity and low temperatureIn recent years, some superconducting alloys have been developed, but their application is inseparable from copper. Copper still has good toughness and plasticity under ultra-low temperature. It is an indispensable structure and pipeline transportation material in low-temperature engineering.
Aerospace technologyIn rockets, satellites and space shuttles, in addition to microelectronic control systems and instrumentation equipment, copper and copper alloys are also used for many other key components.
In addition, copper alloys are also standard materials for load-bearing components in satellite structures. The solar plates on a satellite are usually made of an alloy of copper and several other elements.
9. Applications of copper compoundsCopper compounds mainly include: copper sulphate (pentahydrate, monohydrate and anhydrous), copper acetate, copper oxide, cuprous oxide, copper chloride, cuprous chloride, copper oxychloride, copper nitrate, copper cyanide, fatty acid copper, copper naphthenate, etc., which are widely used in various fields such as agriculture, animal husbandry, industry, medical and health.
Application in agriculture and animal husbandry
Copper compounds are effective bactericidal pesticides for eliminating diseases and insect pests and can control all diseases caused by mold or fungi. In addition to directly using copper sulfate bubble seeds, some copper salt mixtures are often used in orchards and farmland.
Application in industry
Copper compounds are widely used in industry and are used at some level in almost every industry. Here are some examples.
- Copper sulfate can improve the durability and wash resistance and is widely used in the textile and leather industries.
- Copper compounds have blue, green, red, black and other colors, so they can be used as colorants for glass, ceramics, cement, and enamel. They are also components of certain hair dyes.
- Certain compounds of copper are important chemical agents in the production process of rubber, petroleum and man-made fibers, which plays a role in catalysis and purification.
- Copper sulfate electrolyte is used for copper plating, production of electrolytic copper foil and copper purification.
- In the mining industry, copper sulfate is used as an activator to float minerals such as lead, zinc, aluminium and gold.
Application in human health careThe World Health Organization recommends that to maintain health, adults should consume 0.03 mg of copper per kilogram of body weight per day.
- Copper is an indispensable micronutrient for human health.
- Copper ions can be used for disinfectant, sterilization and epidemic prevention.
- Copper compounds are used to treat diseases such as lung disease, mental disorders, ulcers and skin diseases.