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IYPT Elements

IYPT 2019 Elements 029: Copper: The Statue of Liberty and blue blood

Element 29 in our International Year of the Periodic Table series is copper. Though it might not have copper’s characteristic orange-red colour, the Statue of Liberty is made of this metal, and it’s also found in our everyday lives in the wiring and electronic devices in our homes.

The Statue of Liberty is coated in 80 tonnes of copper. Though it doesn’t have copper’s characteristic colour today, when it was first erected it did. Over time oxidation caused the formation of verdigris, which is mainly copper(II) carbonate hydroxide, giving it its green colour.

Copper’s more everyday presence is in conduction of electricity. It finds use in wiring, electronics, and lightning conductors. The electric wiring in your house and some of the components in your electronic devices likely contain copper.

While humans use an iron-containing protein, haemoglobin, to ferry oxygen to their bodies’ cells, this isn’t the case for all animals. Crustaceans use a copper-containing complex to transport oxygen in their blood, and this complex gives their blood a blue colour.

Remember, you can keep track of all of the previous entries in this series on the site here, or on the Royal Society of Chemistry’s dedicated page.