The unique properties of copper
One of the most widely used materials in construction, copper owes its versatility to its unique properties.
From the red metal’s excellent conductivity to its natural anti-microbial resistance, copper’s unique properties make it one of the planet’s most important materials.
Corrosion-resistant and versatile
Thanks to copper’s exceptional durability and resistance to corrosion, it is used in many inhospitable environments where material integrity is critical. The metal is equipped with a naturally occurring film that forms on its surface, helping to protect against corrosion.
This natural resistance makes copper especially suitable for use in a variety of rural, marine and industrial environments, where copper pipes and electrical copper wiring can be trusted to maintain their quality over time.
Tough yet malleable
Copper is known for being a robust and durable metal, but it’s also incredibly malleable and ductile. This means that it can be easily joined, stretched, recycled and made into alloys, which enables a multitude of further benefits and uses.
Due to the arrangement of its atoms, copper can be reshaped to fit tight, intricate spaces without breaking. Flexible copper pipes are found in both plumbing and heating systems, while copper wiring can be stretched and shaped for use in electronic devices. Elsewhere, copper can be used to create musical instruments, kitchenware and a range of ornamental products.
Copper is one of the most versatile materials on the planet as it can be used and re-used repeatedly without losing its properties. When buildings and electronic devices reach the end of their life cycle, scrap copper can be recovered and later recycled to form new copper pipes and copper wires.
Offering infinite uses over infinite lifecycles, copper is an incredibly sustainable material that plays a key role in the circular economy. These qualities make copper a choice alternative to single-use materials like plastic.
Another of copper’s special properties is its natural resistance against bacteria, viruses and fungi. Antimicrobial copper releases oxidising atoms when microbes land on its surface, pulling electrons from the atoms that make up the cell wall and ultimately killing the microbe.
This special quality is why medical copper pipes are used in hospital settings, and why antimicrobial copper touch surfaces are used in high-traffic public spaces where bacteria and viruses can spread easily.
When it comes to conductivity, copper is second only to silver among other metals. Its hard-to-rival electrical and thermal conductivity make copper especially suitable for use in power generation, transmission and distribution.
As the transition to renewable energy gathers pace, electrical copper wiring is set to become one of the most sought-after products on the planet, as it used in a wide variety of renewable energy systems.
Copper’s melting point of approximately 1,085°C exceeds the temperature of the average building fire, which means that copper pipes installed in homes and offices can be trusted not to spread the blaze in the event of a fire. The same cannot be said for plastic pipes, which are known to catch fire and spread toxic fumes at high temperatures.
Furthermore, copper has a low thermal expansion coefficient that’s superior to most other building materials. Should a building catch fire, copper pipes and wires will expand at only a marginal rate, retaining their structural integrity and reducing the need for repairs following the fire.
Frequently asked questions
What are the properties of copper?
Copper has a multitude of unique properties, including corrosion resistance, antimicrobial resistance, high conductivity, fire resistance, durability, ductility and the ability to be recycled infinitely without any loss of quality. This special blend of properties is why copper is used across so many different settings.
What properties make copper suitable for plumbing pipes?
Copper is considered the gold standard for plumbing due to its durability and ductility. Copper pipes can be stretched to fit tight spaces in walls and flooring, and then relied upon to maintain their structural integrity. Finally, copper pipes are naturally antimicrobial and therefore help prevent the spread of bacteria.
What properties make copper suitable for electrical wiring?
Copper is a highly conductive metal that’s second only to silver in terms of electrical conductivity. The red metal has a high density of free electrons which help to carry the electrical current. In addition, copper wires can be bent to fit tight spaces while maintaining their strength.