Copper powers our lives. It is the first metal manipulated by humans and it remains in most materials we come across today.
Copper’s malleability and high conductivity of heat and electricity are the main reasons for its wide use in technology. Approximately 75% of copper production is allocated to making of electrical wires, telecommunication cables, and electronics. Copper is critical to the global transition to renewable sources of energy and electrified transportation.
By 2050, renewable energy may generate 73% of the world’s power(1) from solar photovoltaic panels and high-megawatt wind farms. Wind installations require from 3.5 to 10.5 tons of copper per megawatt (on-shore vs off-shore installations), solar installations contain approximately 5.5 tons of copper per megawatt, and copper wiring and cabling connects these power generating installations with energy storage devices(2).
Copper is essential to the manufacture and use of electric vehicles (EVs). Most automakers offer EV models, with affordability improving as production quantities increase. Governments provide incentives to EV ownership and have introduced regulations restricting manufacture and sales of internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEs). EVs contain almost 4 times the amount of copper than ICE vehicles (183 lbs vs 43 lbs, respectively)(2), and the rapidly expanding charging infrastructure will require significant copper usage.
Copper has application in the medical field, as it has anti-microbial properties and kills bacteria, viruses and yeasts on contact. Copper alloys and applications are being commercialized for high touch surfaces such as transit systems, hospitals and airports . Copper can be woven into fabrics to make anti-microbial garments. Embedding copper into fabrics may provide continuous protection against transmission of viruses, such as COVID-19, and other pathogens, improving the effectiveness of face makes and other personal protection equipment(4).