Understanding Corrosion in Water Pipelines: A Guide for Pipeline Designers


Copper (Cu)

Last updated: August 16, 2018

What Does Copper (Cu) Mean?

Copper is a transition metal element with the chemical symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a reddish-orange malleable metal with high thermal and electrical conductivity.

Metallic copper is well known to undergo corrosion in air and ultimately produce a characteristic green color when converted to a copper salt such as copper(II) carbonate, basic copper chloride or copper(II) acetate.

Copper is commonly used to produce wires, heat sinks, electromagnets and electric motors due to its excellent electrical and thermal conductivity, but it is also used as structural components and piping. Because the air oxidation of copper produces protection against further corrosion, copper can have advantages over other metals in these applications.

Biological processes are also highly dependent on copper atoms to facilitate important electron transfer and oxygen transfer reactions.


Corrosionpedia Explains Copper (Cu)

Copper from the Earth is comprised of 69.15% of the 63Cu isotope and 30.85% of the 65Cu isotope, with 34 and 36 neutrons respectively. Its appearance is characterized both by its unoxidized shiny reddish-orange coloring and by the oxidized and modified greenish coloring. Copper is prone to oxidation and is commonly found in the Cu+ and Cu2+ oxidation states. The corresponding copper salts are often colorful.

Some properties of copper:

  • Molecular mass: 63.55 g/mol
  • Density (at 20°C): 8.96 g/cm3
  • Melting point: 1,085°C (1,984°F)
  • Boiling point: 2,562°C (4,643°F)

Typical of transition metals, copper is rich in chemistry, capable of catalyzing chemical transformations and transferring electrons. These reactivities are taken advantage of in biology, where specialized proteins use copper to facilitate aerobic respiration, quench dangerous oxidants and transport oxygen in mollusks.

Copper’s resistance to atmospheric corrosion, antibiofouling and antimicrobial properties along with its malleability, ductility and hardness make it an excellent choice for architectural, piping and marine applications. Copper alloys such as bronze, brass and cupronickel are also produced to achieve different properties.


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