Copper and its Alloys

Copper sulphate, blue stone, blue vitriol are all common names for pentahydrated cupric sulphate, CuSO45H2O, which is the best known and the most widely used of the copper salts. Indeed it is often the starting raw material for the production of many of the other copper salts. 

Today in the world there are more than 100 manufacturers and the world's consumption is around 275,000 tonnes per annum. It is estimated that approximately three-quarters of this is used in agriculture, principally as a fungicide, but also for treating copper-deficient soils.


Copper sulphate is a very versatile chemical with as extensive a range of uses in industry as it has in agriculture. Its principal employment is in agriculture, and, up to a generation or so ago, about its only uses in industry were as a mordant for dyeing and for electroplating. Today it is being employed in many industrial processes:

  • The synthetic fibre industry has found an application for it in the production of their raw material.
  • The metal industry uses large quantities of copper sulphate as an electrolyte in copper refining, for copper coating steel wire prior to wire drawing and in various copper plating processes.
  • The mining industry employs it as an activator in the concentration by froth flotation of lead, zinc, cobalt and gold ores.
  • The printing trade takes it as an electrolyte in the production of electrotype and as an etching agent for process engraving.
  • The paint industry uses it in anti-fouling paints and it plays a part in the colouring of glass.

Indeed, today there is hardly an industry which does not have some small use for copper sulphate. In the table below, some of the many uses of copper sulphate are listed.

Further information:

Uses of Copper Sulphate

 Classification Application
 Major uses Preparation of Bordeaux and Burgundy mixtures for use as fungicides
  Manufacture of other copper fungicides such as copper-lime dust, tribasic copper sulphate, copper carbonae and cuprous oxide
  Manufacture of insecticides such as copper arsenite and Paris green
  Control of fungus diseases
  Correction of copper deficiency in soils 
  Correction of copper deficiency in animals 
  Growth stimulant for fattening pigs and broiler chickens
  Molluscicide for the destruction of slugs and snails, particularly the snail host of the liver fluke
Other uses Seed dressing
  Soil steriliser, e.g Cheshunt compound (a mixture of copper sulphate and ammonium carbonate) to prevent 'damping-off' disease of tomato etc. 
  Control and prevention of foot rot in sheep and cattle 
  Bacteriastat for addition to sheep dips 
  Disinfectant in prevention of the spread of swine erysepelas and white scours in calves 
  Control of scum in farm ponds 
  Plant nutrient in rice fields 
  Preservative for wooden posts, wooden buildings, etc 
  Ingredient of vermin repellents, e.g for application to  bark of trees against rabbits
  Stimulant of latex yield on rubber plantations
  Protection against algal growths on flower pots
Public health and medicine
  Destruction of algal blooms in reservoirs and swimming pools
  Prevention of the spread of athletes foot in warm climates, by incorporation in the flooring mixture of swimming baths
  Control of bilharzia in tropical countries, as a molluscicide
  Prevention of malaria, in the preparation of Paris green for use against mosquito larvae
  Antiseptic and germicide against fungus infections
  Catalyst or raw material for the preparation of copper catalysts used in the manufacture of pharmaceutical products
Adhesives  Preservative in casein and other glues
  Additive to book binding pastes and glues, for insecticidal purposes
  Additive to animal and silicate glues to give water resistance
Building Timber preservtive and in the preparawtion of other wood preservatives, e.g oil-based copper naphthenates and water-based copper/chrome/arsenic for the prevention of woodworms and wood rots
  Ingredient of plaster to prevent fungus infection, e.g to prevent the spread of dry rot
  Ingredient of concrete, both as a colouring matter and as an antiseptic, e.g for use in and around swimming pools
  Modification of the setting of concrete
  Protection against lichens, moulds and similar growths on asbestos cement roofing and other building materials
  Control of the growth of tree roots in sewers
 Chemical Preparation of catalysts for use in many industries
  Purification of gases, e.g removal of hydrogen chloride and hydrogen sulphide
  Precipitation promoter in purifying zinc sulphate solutions
  Precipitation of alkaloids as double salts from crude extracts
  Source of other copper compounds such as copper carbonate silicate/arsenite/aceto-arsenite/resinate/stearate/tartrate/oleate naphthenate/chromate/chlorate/alginate/fluoride/hydroxide/cuprous oxide/chloride/cyanide and cuprammonium compounds
Decorate trades   Colouring glass
  Colouring cement and plaster
  Colouring ceramic wares
  Alteration of metal colours, e.g darkening of zinc, colouring aluminium
Dyestuffs  Reagent in the preparation of dyestuffs intermediates
  Catalyst or raw material for the preparation of copper ca\talysts, e.g preparation of phenols from diago compounds, preparation of phthalocyanine dyes
Leather  Mordant in dyeing
  Reagent in tanning processes
Metal and electrical  Electrolyte in copper refining
  Electrolyte in copper plating and electro forming
  Electrolyte manufacture of cuprous compounds, e.g cuprous oxide
  Constituent of the electrodes and electrolytes in batteries
  Electrolyte in the manufacture of copper powder
  Electrolyte in aluminium plating and anodising
  Copper coating steel wire, prior to wire drawing
  Pickling copper wire, etc, prior to enamelling
  Providing a suitable surface for marking out iron and steel
Mining Flotation reagent in the concentration of ores, e.g zinc blende
Paint Raw material for the manufacture of copper naphthenate and other copper compounds for use in anti-fouling paints
  Preparation of certain varnish or paint dryers, e.g copper oleate, copper stearate
  Preparation of certain pigments, e.g copper chromate, copper ferrocyanide, copper phthalocyanine
Printing Etching agent for process engraving
  Electrolyte in the preparation of electrotype
  Ingredient of printing inks
Synthetic rubber
and petroleum
Preparation of catalysts used in cracking certain gaseous and liquid petroleum
  Preparation of cuprous chloride, used in the purification of butadiene and in the separation of acetylene derivatives
  Preparation of catalysts used in chlorinating rubber latex
  Purification of petroleum oils
Textiles Preparation of copper compounds for rot-proofing canvas and other fabrics
  Rot-proofing sandbags 
  Mordant, especially in calico printing
  Cuprammonium process for the production of rayon
  Production of aniline black and diazo colours for dyeing
  'After coppering' to increase the fastness of dyes
  Catalyst in the manufacture of cellulose ethers and in cellulose acetylation
Miscellaneous Improving the burning qualities of coke
  Laboratory analytical work 
  Ingredient of laundry marking ink
  Dyeing of hair and horn
  Ingredient of hair dyes of the phenylene diamine or pyrogallol type
  Preparation of chlorophyll as a colouring material for foodstuffs
  Imparting a green colour in fireworks
  Activator in the preparation of active carbons
  Preservative for wood pulp
  Preservation of fishing nets and hides on trawls
  Obtaining a blue-back finish on steel
  Treatment of carbon brushes 
  Ingredient of the solution used for preserving plant specimens in their natural colours
  Impregnation in fruit wrapping papers to prevent storage rots
Copper sulphate crystals
Copper sulphatee powder
Copper sulphate used in grape production
Copper sulphate helps to keep horses healthy
99.99% purity copper cathodes removed from copper sulphate electrolyte
Copper sulphate is used for colouring ceramics
Copper sulphate contributes to healthy soil, grass and cattle.
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