As we go about checking our phones for the latest updates, watching our favorite television shows, or even cooking our daily meals, we often don’t think about the uses of copper and other metals that fuel, power, and drive our modern lives.
From electrical appliances to jewelry, healthcare, and transport—we use copper everywhere–and its applications are only growing as the world moves towards sustainable technologies.
The Material for a Modern Economy
Today’s infographic comes to us from Trilogy Metals and shines a light on the varied uses of copper and the important role it plays in enabling a cleaner, greener future.
Understanding the Role of Copper Today
Modern economies rely on infrastructure, transportation, healthcare, construction, and energy utilities. Copper is critical to each one of these industries—supporting economic growth, urbanization, higher living standards, and a sustainable future.
How does copper do all this?
The element has five key properties that make it an integral part of the modern economy:
- High conductivity
- Pressure resistance
- Corrosion resistance
- Antimicrobial properties
Let’s look at how these properties factor into major uses of the red metal today.
Copper Builds: Construction and Infrastructure
The construction and infrastructure industries use more than 40% of all copper produced. Copper’s properties make it the optimal choice for various construction activities:
- Roofing: Copper’s wind resistance, aesthetic appeal, and sustainability make it a great roofing material.
- Tubing: Residential heating and water systems use copper tubes for copper’s high thermal conductivity and antimicrobial properties.
- Electric grids: The generation, transmission, distribution, and consumption of electricity all rely on copper wiring for its electrical conductivity and malleability.
In addition, copper lightning conductors are the longstanding protectors of buildings when lightning strikes—a further testament to its electrical properties.
Despite its widespread usage, copper remains highly affordable. Without copper, powering, wiring, and protecting our homes would prove costly and difficult.
Copper Moves: Transportation
From gas-powered cars and electrical vehicles (EVs) to trains and airplanes, copper is an essential part of our daily commute.
Here are some interesting uses of copper in transportation:
|Means of Transportation||Where Copper is Used||Copper's Role|
|Airplanes||Wiring and equipment||
|Electric Vehicles (EVs)||Wiring, voltage transmission, and motors||
|Cars and other modes||Wiring, radiators, brake-tubing, and motors||
As the global population grows, more transportation services will be required—and copper will continue to play a crucial role.
Copper Cares: Healthcare and Hospitals
Did you know that copper can kill 99.9% of E.Coli within two hours of exposure?
This, alongside the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, makes copper’s antimicrobial properties and healthcare applications more important than ever.
Copper helps us lead healthier lives in many ways.
|Where Copper is Found||Copper's Role|
|Hospitals||Copper’s ability to kill bacteria improves the safety of high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs and bed handles.|
|Daily Diets||Copper is vital to the normal development of the brain, and adults require 1-2mg of copper in their daily diets.|
More than 500 antimicrobial copper alloys are registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. With further research, copper could play an even bigger role in healthcare.
Copper Strengthens: Jewelry and Coinage
Copper’s durability and aesthetic appeal make it ideal for usage in jewelry and coinage, where it’s present in significant quantities.
For instance, 18K gold jewelry typically contains 75% gold, 15% silver, and 10% copper. Not only does copper strengthen gold and silver jewelry, but its alloys (brass and bronze) are also commonly used to make jewelry items that are affordable and appealing.
Furthermore, many of the coins we use are made from copper and its alloys. To be precise, two properties of copper are key to producing durable and safe coins:
- Corrosion Resistance: Copper-nickel alloy coins do not tarnish.
- Electrical Conductivity: Copper-nickel coins have specific electronic signatures that help prevent fraud in vending and coin-handling machines.
Copper Comforts: Homes and Households
The average single-family home contains around 200 kilograms (439 lbs) of copper.
Here’s how it breaks down, along with the amount of copper in general appliances:
|Appliance/Material||Amount of Copper Contained (kg)|
|Plumbing tubes and fittings||68.5|
|Built-in appliances and other hardware||21.0|
But that’s not all.
In addition to home appliances, copper also plays an important role in objects that we use on a daily basis. According to BBC, a typical iPhone contains 15 grams of copper on average—approximately 10% of the phone’s weight.
Copper is an integral part of the modern economy today. Its unique properties enable urbanization and economic development at low costs—and the story doesn’t end here.
Why Copper Tomorrow?
As the world transitions towards a cleaner energy mix, copper will be an essential material in empowering a more sustainable future.
Copper in Renewable Energy
According to McKinsey, a whopping 73% of global power generation will come from renewable energy sources by 2050—and copper has a significant role to play in this transition.
Solar and wind energy farms are heavily dependent on copper. Cabling and heat-exchange in solar and wind farms are the primary applications of copper in renewable energy generation.
For starters, wind farms can contain anywhere between 4 to 15 million pounds of copper. Moreover, solar photovoltaic farms require 9,000 pounds of copper per megawatt of energy. To put that into context, India’s solar power generation capacity is 31,696 megawatts—which alone would require about 322 million pounds of copper.
Copper in Electric Vehicles
As the standard benchmark for electrical conductivity, copper is indispensable for EVs. The growing EV market could bolster copper demand in the near future.
Copper is used in EV batteries, coils, wiring, and charging stations. As per current growth projections, by 2030, more than 250,000 tonnes of copper will be needed as part of the windings in electric traction motors in on-road EVs.
The transition to clean energy, coupled with urbanization and economic development, implies that copper is critical for the future.
However, copper’s importance to the future is a double-edged sword and raises concerns about the sustainability of its supply—will there be enough?
Copper Forever: Sustainable Material
From the 5.8 trillion pounds of known copper resources, only 12% have been mined throughout history—and thanks to copper’s recyclability, almost all of that is still in circulation.
Not only does recycled copper offer the same quality and benefits as newly mined copper, but it also saves a massive 40 million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. Additionally, copper recycling uses 80-90% less energy than mining, and a total of 8.5 million tonnes of the red metal are produced from recycled scrap each year.
Copper’s recyclability makes it reusable for years to come, complementing the path to sustainable development.
Copper: Critical Today, Tomorrow, and Forever
The exceptional properties of copper allow for widespread applications, which continue to grow as the world shifts towards clean energy.
And since we need copper for all aspects of life, its demand will always persist.
Forex Market: Unlocking Opportunities for Investors
What are the advantages of the forex market? Individual investors can access this expansive, global market—largely unknown to many.
Forex Market: Unlocking Opportunities for Investors
In 2019, the global foreign exchange market (forex) was valued at a jaw-dropping $2.4 quadrillion.
In fact, this is equal to more than 50 times China, Japan, Germany, India and the U.S.’s economic output combined. Institutional investors, such as investment banks, pension funds, and large corporations have typically dominated this space, but there are avenues for individuals to enter the market as well.
This infographic from Compare Forex Brokers breaks down the world’s most interconnected financial market, and how individual investors can start trading.
The Forex Market: A Global Landscape
Across the forex market, 170 major, minor, and exotic currency pairs can be traded as contracts for difference (CFDs). A CFD enables you to speculate on whether the price of an asset will rise or fall.
Here, trades are conducted on over the counter (OTC) markets—non-centralized markets made up of a network of participants. This is different from traditional markets, such as the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq, which operate on formal, centralized exchanges.
While the forex market is by nature, decentralized, these core regions show where forex transactions are most concentrated by market participants including banks, commercial businesses, or individual investors.
Globally, the majority of forex trading takes place within the following hubs.
|Forex Trading Centers (2019)||Country||Share of Global Over the Counter (OTC) Forex Turnover|
The UK accounts for over 43% of global forex trading, averaging $2.7 trillion daily according to the 2019 Triennial Central Bank Survey by the Bank for International Settlements. London’s geographic location between the U.S. and Asia makes it an optimal forex trading centre—a trend that has held strong over the last 50 years.
With forex trading in the U.S. jumping over 50% in the last decade, the U.S. is the next most active forex market. Meanwhile, averaging $633 billion in trading volumes in 2019, Singapore is Asia’s largest forex trading center, with Hong Kong following close behind.
The Top Seven Currency Pairs
What are the most highly-traded currency pairs?
Overall, 68% of global forex trading falls into seven major currency pairs.
|Top Seven Currency Pairs||Percentage of Total|
|1||United States Dollar vs Euro||24.0%|
|2||United States Dollar vs Japanese Yen||17.8%|
|3||United States Dollar vs Great British Pound||9.3%|
|4||United States Dollar vs Australian Dollar||5.2%|
|5||United States Dollar vs Canadian Dollar||4.3%|
|6||United States Dollar vs Chinese Yuan||3.8%|
|7||United States Dollar vs Swiss Franc||3.6%|
Currency prices are impacted by factors including inflation, international trade, political stability, among other macroeconomic factors.
Breaking Down Institutional and Retail Trading
While commercial and central banks, hedge funds, and investment managers make up most of the forex market, only 5.5% are individual investors.
Importantly, they differ in a few key ways.
|Institutional Forex Trading||Retail Forex Trading|
|- Buy and sell the physical currency|
- Interdealer market: Large institutions trade on an interdealer market, which is a non-centralized network of dealers
- Less formal: Often trades are conducted by phone, email or instant message.
- Non-transparent: Execution prices and buy/sell orders are not visible to the market.
|- Buy and sell contracts for difference (CFD)
- Contracts for Difference (CFD): CFDs allow traders to speculate on the price of an underlying asset. Traders do not own the underlying asset.
- Long and Short Trades: Traders can take a long or short position:
- Long position: buying a CFD with the expectation the asset's market price will increase.
- Short position: selling a CFD with the expectation the asset's market price will decrease.
For various reasons, retail forex trading increases in popularity year after year. However, before diving in, it is important to know the stakes involved in this speculative market.
Understanding the High Risk of Forex Trading
Retail forex trading is, at is core, very risky.
In 2019, 71% of all retail forex trades lost money. One explanation is the highly leveraged nature of the market—many investors trade using borrowed money. But while trading with leverage can magnify losses, it also applies to gains.
Key Benefits of the Forex Market
While there is risk inherent in the market, what are some of the advantages in forex trading?
- Low transaction costs: No exchange or regulatory fees. Overall trading costs are low with both commission and no commission pricing structures available.
- High liquidity: Along with being the largest market globally, it is also the most liquid with $6.6 trillion in daily trading volume.
- 24-hour market: Trading is not confined to limited hours or time zones.
- Leverage: Forex brokers offer retail traders leverage which allows the to increase their exposure
Unlike equities, currency trading is all about relativity. A currency can depreciate overall, but can also appreciate relative to a currency that has depreciated even more.
Connect to New Markets
While big gains are possible, many trades lose money, but regulatory improvements have helped build trust in the market.
Meanwhile, multiple digital platforms provide a link to global currencies, allowing retail forex traders to enter the market and trade from any location. For those comfortable taking more risk, currency markets offer opportunities with outsized potential.
Investing in the Impending E-commerce Future
E-commerce is already massive, but COVID-19 has proven to be an unexpected catalyst in driving the use of digital marketplaces.
Investing in the Impending E-commerce Future
The rise of e-commerce has been a long time coming, but the market’s progressive size and impact has caught many by surprise.
Tied initially to the advent of the internet and the Dot-com boom, online shopping saw companies like Amazon and eBay become well-known billion-dollar names. Digital commerce was a big market, but only for a few players.
Fast forward to today, and more companies than ever are launching their own marketplaces or embracing online retail. The shift was happening before COVID-19, but the pandemic has sped things up dramatically.
Today’s infographic from eToro highlights the increasing relevance of e-commerce in the modern economy and how investors can enter the market.
The Digital Marketplace Footprint
How big is modern e-commerce? While multiple sectors are experiencing their own online revolutions, retail is leading the way.
Total global retail e-commerce sales already numbered $3 trillion in 2018, and are expected to more than double to $6.5 trillion in 2023.
The increasing ease and security of online payments have encouraged many businesses to embrace B2C sales, especially in light of a pandemic that forced many brick and mortar stores to close. But less documented is the boom of digital marketplaces, which accounted for 57% of global online retail sales in 2019.
The biggest marketplaces are well-known leaders like Amazon and China’s Taobao and Tmall, but more and more companies are capturing a slice of the online distribution market.
|Largest U.S. Marketplaces||Gross Merchandise Value|
Walmart and Best Buy have both launched marketplaces for third-party product sales, with Walmart recently seeing a 79% increase of e-commerce sales alone.
The E-commerce Transformation
The growth of e-commerce in retail by itself is staggering, but its growing availability in other sectors is the bigger story.
Groceries and restaurants are a key marker, with home-delivery of takeout, groceries, and ready-to-prepare meal-kits all ordered digitally. Companies like Doordash, Just Eat, and Uber Eats have experienced massive growth, with Doordash positioning for a 2020 IPO, while grocery retailers including Walmart and Safeway are embracing delivery sales.
Online services are likewise rising in popularity, including everything from streaming services to virtual meetings, healthcare and assistance. Just as with the retail sector, e-commerce is making its way into sectors previously thought to be “un-digitizable.”
That type of transformation is usually slow, but the result of COVID-19 restrictions forcing thousands of businesses to go digital sped up the schedule. U.S. e-commerce penetration experienced 10 years of growth in the first quarter of 2020 alone.
|Year||U.S. E-commerce Penetration|
A Widening Landscape for Future Growth
It might be hard to believe, but even with the headway made by e-commerce over the past year, the industry is slated for massive future growth.
One big reason is the rising demand for digital goods and services. As the global pandemic has reimagined virtual business, many companies have also come face-to-face with the decreased costs of operating remotely, while retailers are seeing higher margins by cutting out the distributor (or the lease).
At the same time, another massive shift is the increase in technological capabilities. Alongside the rollout of 5G, blockchain, and improved AI, companies are looking for tech to streamline their processes and keep customers online where possible.
That includes the use of drones for delivery by Amazon, augmented and virtual reality for product testing by Ikea and Wayfair, and improved payment platforms by Shopify.
While 100% online shopping is still a ways away from becoming a reality, the wave of e-commerce is set to continue rising.
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