Copper

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Copper is a transition metal. It is soft, easily bent and it is a good conductor of electricity. This makes copper useful for electrical wiring. Copper does not react with water, which makes it useful for plumbing.

diagram of purificationof Copper using electrolysis  with copper supfateCopper is purified by electrolysis. Electricity is passed through solutions containing copper compounds, such as copper sulfate (sometimes spelt sulphate). As the diagram shows, pure copper forms on the negative electrode (the cathode).

Problems
We are running out of ores rich in copper. Research is being carried out to find new ways to extract copper from the remaining ores, without harming the environment too much. This research is very important, as traditional mining produces huge open-cast mines. Also, the ores that we have left are low-grade, which means that they don't contain much copper and produce lots of waste rock.

[ This page has been adapted from www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/science ]