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What are the Top Five Uses of Copper in the Industry Today?

Published by Lucy Thurston on

Copper

Whether it’s copper by the sheet or copper plate, copper is the third most-used metal globally. This is because the properties of sheet copper make it ideal for use in home appliances, transportation equipment, electronic products, electrical grids, building construction, and much more.

Copper sheeting has earnt its place as a trinity metal alongside the likes of silver and gold. This is down to its reputation as a vital material for the advancement of human civilisation. The founding of copper dates as far back as 8,000 years and, in this time, has been moulded into various useful products.

The versatility of copper stems from its malleability and softness, as well as its high thermal conductivity and high corrosion resistance. From these properties, it’s clear that copper is the perfect material for electronic products, representing roughly 75% of global copper consumption.

What sets copper apart from other metals is that alloys are formed more freely from such. For instance, the construction and manufacturing industry strongly relies on copper. Meanwhile, it plays a significant role in the medical field in limiting the spread of infections.

Detailed below are the five industries driving copper demand.

Medical Applications

Copper is relatively new to the medical sector; however, this doesn’t make it any less important. The metal is renowned for its antimicrobial properties, proven by the fact that yeasts, viruses, and bacteria can’t survive on copper surfaces for significant time periods. This is down to the fact that copper affects the electrical charge of microbial cell membranes. In fact, copper surfaces can kill 99.9% of bacteria that lands on them within two hours, as proven by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

 Consequently, other metals and plastics are being replaced with copper or copper alloys in hospital environments in order to limit the spread of infections. Frequently touched surfaces, including pens, chairs, call buttons, bedrails, handrails, doorknobs, and countertops, are being prioritised for this change. This replacement is predicted to reduce the number of hospital-acquired infections by a minimum of 58%.

Industrial Equipment and Machinery

The industrial equipment and machinery of various sectors are made from copper. For instance, the equipment and machinery of the petrochemical industry comprise copper pipe systems, valves, heat exchangers, condensers, evaporators, electrical motors, and containers for holding corrosive mediums.

Similarly, the creation of undersea installations requires corrosion-resistant copper alloys. Meanwhile, the cleantech metal status of copper makes it ideal for use in the electrical vehicle (EV) industry, as well as the manufacturing of solar energy systems and windmill turbines.

Transportation

From the fabrication of automobiles and planes to that of railways and ships, copper is widely applied in the transportation sector. For instance, copper is essential for the creation of wiring, radiators, motors, connectors, bearings, and brakes in the automotive industry. Moreover, electrical systems, navigation and hydraulics, and cooling in planes all rely on copper. Similarly, copper is essential for the manufacturing of train parts, such as signal and electric systems, controls and brakes, and motors. Last but not least, the standard material for condenser pipes, propellers, rivets, and bolts in ships is copper alloys.

In addition to these traditional applications, the growth of the EV market is contributing to copper’s demand. In fact, EV technology relies heavily on copper, with each EV requiring anywhere from two to four times more copper than a traditional vehicle. Not only do the vehicles themselves require more copper, but the charging stations also contain a lot of the metal.

Electronic Products

It’s no secret that copper has strong electrical conductivity properties. Additionally, it’s by no means in short supply as a raw material. Consequently, copper is the most cost-effective and efficient metal for electronic products. From printed circuit boards to electrical wiring, copper is found in the majority of modern consumer electronic products, including robotic vacuum cleaners, power tools, surveillance systems, TVs, laptops, smartphones, and more.

Building Construction

Last but certainly not least is building construction, with almost 50% of all copper supply making its way into buildings. In fact, a single home contains an average of 200kg of copper. This is because the malleability of copper means it can be easily soldered; however, the metal is still strong enough to form junctions and bonds in plumbing and electrical wiring.

The applications of copper tubing are seemingly endless, being found in HVAC systems, heat pumps, refrigeration lines, water pipes, and more. This isn’t including the copper wiring that moves electricity through the house and links it to cable networks and telecommunications.

Shop Copper at Rapid Metals

Whether you’re after a 1mm copper sheet or a copper round tube, Rapid Metals has got you covered. Discover our collection of copper here and find just what you need for your upcoming project. Our materials are available for home delivery or collection from our Coventry and Redditch stores.

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What are the Top Five Uses of Copper in the Industry Today?

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