The generation, transmission and use of electricity has transformed the modern world. This has been made possible by copper (of at least 99.9% purity), which has the best electrical conductivity of any common metal and is available in wrought form as wire, cable, strip and busbars and as castings for such components as electrical switchgear and welding equipment. Copper drives today’s technology
Imagine a world without electricity: no lighting, TVs, DVD players, iPads, electric kettles, mobiles, washing machines, fridges, vacuum cleaners, computers, cars, buses, electrified railways, underground transport systems or trams.
Cars and trucks
A high-purity copper wire harness system carries current from the battery throughout a vehicle to equipment such as lights, central locking, onboard computers and satellite navigation systems. Electric motors, which are wound with high conductivity wire, are used in many of these devices. The average car contains about 1 km of wire.
Copper is a good conductor of heat (about 30 times better than stainless steel and 1.5 times better than aluminium). This leads to applications where rapid heat transfer is required such as heat exchangers in air conditioning units, vehicle radiators, heat sinks in computers, heat sealing machines and televisions, and as water-cooled furnace components.
Good-quality spark plugs have a central copper electrode to enable heat to be removed and prevent overheating. The best quality saucepans are copper bottomed to ensure uniform, rapid heating.
Copper plays a crucial role in modern society. It is used by more individuals, and in more applications, than most people realise.
Ease of Joining
Copper can be readily joined by brazing, soldering, bolting or adhesives. In industry, this is very useful for plumbing pipework and joining busbars, which are vital elements of power distribution systems. Elsewhere, it is also an important feature for artists crafting sculptures and statues, and for jewellery makers and other artisans working with this beautiful metal.
Water: Copper was used by the ancient Egyptians; samples taken from the Pyramids are still in good condition.
Today copper tube is used for approximately 90% of European and North American hot and cold water supplies in diameters ranging from 6 to 159mm.
Gas: As well as distributing water for domestic plumbing, copper tubes are used to safely convey natural gas to homes and businesses.