Uses of Copper Sulphate

Uses of Copper Sulphate

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

Uses

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.

Uses of Copper Sulphate

Classification Application
Agriculture
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
Industry
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
  • Raw material for the manufacture of copper naphthenate and other copper compounds for use in anti-fouling paints
Paint
  • 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
  • Fractions
  • 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