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.
7 Ways Artificial Intelligence is Improving Healthcare
Aritifical Intelligence becoming increasingly more prevalent in healthcare. Here are 7 ways this growth might impact the industry as a whole.
7 Ways Artificial Intelligence is Improving Healthcare
Emerging technologies have the potential to completely reshape the healthcare industry and the way people manage their health. In fact, tech innovation in healthcare and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) could provide more convenient, personalized care for patients.
It could also create substantially more value for the industry as a whole—up to $410 billion per year by 2025.
This graphic by RYAH MedTech explores the ways that technology, and more specifically AI, is transforming healthcare.
How is Technology Disrupting the Patient Experience?
Tech innovation is emerging across a wide range of medical applications.
Because of this, AI has the potential to impact every step of a patient’s journey—from early detection, to rehabilitation, and even follow-up appointments.
Here’s a look at each step in the patient journey, and how AI is expected to transform it:
Wearables and apps track vast amounts of personal data, so in the future, AI could use that information to make health recommendations for patients. For example, AI could track the glucose levels of patients with diabetes to provide personalized, real-time health advice.
2. Early Detection
Devices like smartwatches, biosensors, and fitness trackers can monitor things like heart rate and respiratory patterns. Because of this, health apps could notify users of any abnormalities before conditions become critical.
Wearables could also have a huge impact on fall prevention among seniors. AI-enabled accelerometer bracelets and smart belts could detect early warning signs, such as low grip strength, hydration levels, and muscle mass.
3. Doctors Visits
A variety of smart devices have the potential to provide support for healthcare workers. For instance, voice technology could help transcribe clinical data, which would mean less administrative work for healthcare workers, giving them more time to focus on patient care.
Virtual assistants are expected to take off in the next decade. In fact, the healthcare virtual assistant market is projected to reach USD $2.8 billion by 2027, at a CAGR of 27%.
4. Test Results
Traditionally, test results are analyzed manually, but AI has the potential to automate this process through pattern recognition. This would have a significant impact on infection testing.
5. Surgery / Hospital Visits
Research indicates that the use of robotics in surgery can save lives. In fact, one study found that robot assisted kidney surgeries saw a 52% increase in success rate.
Robotics can also support healthcare workers with repetitive tasks, such as restocking supplies, disinfecting patient rooms, and transporting medical equipment, which gives healthcare workers more time with their patients.
Personalized apps have significant care management potential. On the patient level, AI-enabled apps could be specifically tailored to individuals to track progress or adjust treatment plans based on real-time patient feedback.
On an industry level, data generated from users may have the potential to reduce costs on research and development, and improve the accuracy of clinical trials.
7. Follow-ups and Remote Monitoring
Virtual nurse apps can help patients stay accountable by consistently monitoring their own progress. This empowers patients by putting the control in their own hands.
This shift in power is already happening—for instance, a recent survey by Deloitte found that more than a third of respondents are willing to use at-home diagnostics, and more than half are comfortable telling their doctor when they disagree with them.
It’s All About the Experience
Through the use of wearables, smart devices, and personalized apps, patients are becoming increasingly more connected, and therefore less dependent on traditional healthcare.
However, as virtual care becomes more common, healthcare workers need to maintain a high quality of care. To do this, virtual training for physicians is critical, along with user-friendly platforms and intentionally designed apps to provide a seamless user experience.
Antimony: A Mineral with a Critical Role in the Green Future
Despite its lack of fanfare, antimony is a critical mineral that plays an important role in the mass storage of renewable energy.
Antimony: A Mineral with a Critical Role in the Green Future
If someone asked you to name the first mineral that came to mind, odds are, it wouldn’t be antimony.
Yet, despite its lack of fanfare, it plays a significant role in our day-to-day lives. This graphic from Perpetua Resources provides an overview of antimony’s key uses, and the critical role it plays in the movement towards clean energy, among other uses.
What even is Antimony?
Antimony is an element found in the earth’s crust. Rarely found in its native metallic form, it is primarily extracted from the sulfide mineral stibnite.
It has a variety of uses and is found in everything from household items to military-grade equipment. Because it conducts heat poorly, it’s used as a flame retardant in industrial uniforms, equipment, and even children’s clothing.
|End Use||% of antimony consumption in the U.S.|
|Transportation and batteries||29%|
|Ceramics and glass||12%|
Its second most common use, according to USGS, is in transportation and batteries. Traditionally, antimony has been combined with lead to create a strong, corrosion-resistant metal alloy, which is particularly useful in lead-acid batteries.
However, recent innovation has found a new use for antimony—it now plays an essential role in large-scale renewable energy storage, which is critical to the clean energy movement.
Antimony’s Role in Clean Energy
Large-scale renewable energy storage has been a massive hurdle for the clean energy transition because it’s hard to consistently generate renewable power. For instance, wind and solar farms might have a surplus of energy on windy or sunny days, but can fall short when the weather isn’t sunny, or when the wind stops.
Because of this, mass storage of renewable energy is key, in order to transition from fossil fuels to clean energy. Recent research points to liquid metal batteries as a potential storage solution—and these batteries heavily rely on antimony.
But there’s a finite supply, and with China currently dominating antimony production and processing, the U.S. could be at the mercy of its economic rival.
|Country||Production in 2020 (tons)||Reserves (tons)|
In 2020, there was no domestically mined production of antimony in America—meaning the U.S. relied on other countries, primarily China, for its antimony supply.
In the past, China has imposed restrictions on the exports of antimony-based products to the U.S., which reduced availability and increased prices. Because of this, antimony was identified as one of the 35 minerals that are critical to U.S. national security.
Tapping into Domestic Supply
To decrease foreign dependence, the U.S. could tap into domestic resources of antimony and build up its local supply chain.
The only major antimony deposit in North America is located in the Stibnite-Yellow Pine Mining District of central Idaho. This site is the largest reserve in the nation and is expected to supply roughly 35% of U.S. antimony demand on average for the first six years of production.
Domestic production would not only allow the U.S. to reduce its import reliance, but it would also create jobs, providing economic support for the local community.
In the near future, antimony demand could soar as a result of its critical role in clean energy storage—and domestic production via the Stibnite-Yellow Pine Mining district could play a key role in meeting this rising demand.
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