Ancient Egyptians used the symbol "Ankh" to represent copper on their hieroglyphs. “Ankh” is also the symbol of eternal life, which is very appropriate for copper, since it has been used by civilizations for over 10,000 years.
By 1000 b.c., Greek poet Homer named the metal “Chalkos”. For this reason, the Copper Age is also known as “Chalcolithic period.”
One thousand years later, during the Christian Era, the words “aes Cyprium” appeared in the Roman writings to refer to copper, as, at that time, a great quantity of the metal came from the island of Cyprus. The English word “copper” derives from the term in Latin.
According to archeological evidences, copper was used more than 10,000 years ago in Western Asia. During the Chalcolithic period, societies found out how to extract and use copper to produce ornaments and accessories. Between the 3rd and 4th millennium b.c, copper was actively extracted from the region of Huelva, in Spain. By 2500 b.c., the discovery of useful properties of copper/tin alloys led to the Bronze Age.
Some documents found indicate that the Timna Valley, in Israel, used to be a source of copper for the Pharaohs. Ancient Egypt papyruses revealed that copper was used for treating infections and sterilizing water. The island of Cyprus became known for supplying a greater part of the copper used by the ancient empires of Phoenicia, Greece, and Rome.
Although Greeks were already familiar with brass since the time of Aristotle, the alloy was not used in a greater scale until under the Roman Emperor Augustus. In South America, Pre-Columbian Maya, Aztec and Inca civilizations explored copper, as well as gold and silver. In the Middle Age, copper and bronze flourished in China, India and Japan.
As the most important element in the history of civilizations, copper was the first metal to be mined and manufactured by men, since it was available in large quantities and was basically found on the surface of the soil for extraction. Additionally, it was also found that this metal was suitable for the production of weapons, tools, art objects and ornaments.
The discovery of the process required to extract copper from its ore was a major event in history, since it enabled the beginning of steelmaking activities and paved the way for the development of our major industries.
The findings and inventions by Ampère, Faraday and Ohm, in the end of the 18th and 19th centuries, pushed copper into a new era. With excellent electrical conductivity and properties that benefit the exchange of heat, copper played a relevant role in the development of the Industrial Revolution.
Specific heat at 20 °C:
Copper is sent to manufacturers, in most cases, in the form of cathode, billet, cake or ingot.
Through mechanical processes of extrusion, wire drawing, lamination, fusion or electrolysis or atomization, manufacturers may produce wires, ribbed bard, pipes, laminates, bushing, shots and other formats. These semi-finished materials made of copper or copper alloys are sent to the manufacturers to be used in the production of goods intended to meet the needs of society.
The importance of copper in the 20th century increased due to its easy combination with other metals. Tin and zinc have always been primary alloy elements. However, today there are many other, like aluminum, manganese, lead, nickel, etc., which form alloys with specific physical and mechanical properties.
Copper is an essential nutrient for our body. Maintaining a healthy diet requires the ingestion of 1 to 3 milligrams of copper per day. Its absence may cause illnesses, like pernicious anemia, and cardiovascular problems.
It is possible to ingest copper through a large variety of fresh food and drinkable water. Two milligrams of copper per liter of water is the quantity recommended by the World Health Organization. Additionally, copper has antibacterial properties, and its use in piping systems notably reduces the quantity of bacteria in the water. This property cannot be found in any other materials.
For these reasons, copper is used in several hydraulic systems in residences, hospitals and schools, being recommended for the conduction of cold and hot water, and solar heating systems.
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