Copper is one of the most widely used metals on the planet, and has been for more than 10,000 years. It’s history is rich and distinctive as its unique colour, and it is now indispensable in modern society.
What Makes Copper Different?
- Pure copper is ductile – it can be easily stretched and shaped into different forms
- Highly conductive – copper conducts heat and electricity more effectively than all other metals save one: silver.
- 100% Recyclable – 80% of copper ever mined is still in use today.
- Highly Alloyable – there are currently more than 570 different known copper alloys, and 350 have been acknowledged as antimicrobial.
- Colour: Copper unique reddish-orange hue is beautiful and easily identifiable. In fact, gold and osmium are the only other elemental metals with colours other than silver/grey.
The average single family home in North America uses:
- 195 pounds – building wire
- 151 pounds – plumbing tube, fittings, valves
- 24 pounds – plumbers’ brass goods
- 47 pounds – built-in appliances
- 12 pounds – builders hardware
- 10 pounds – other wire and tube
Not only that, there are virtually zero substitutes for copper in its applications. Only silver is a beter conductor, and is over 100x times more expensive.
Copper today is now the nervous system of our cities, homes, tools and toys. The simple truth is that the western lifestyle is completely dependent on copper.
Why Copper and Nickel Are the Key Metals for Energy Utopia
With more renewables and EVs plugging into the grid, copper and nickel are essential building blocks for the energy transition.
Copper and Nickel: The Key Metals for Energy Utopia
The raw materials required to transport and store clean energy are critical for the energy transition. Copper and nickel are two such metals.
Copper is essential for the transmission and distribution of clean electricity, while nickel powers lithium-ion batteries for EVs and energy storage systems.
The above infographic sponsored by CanAlaska Uranium explores how copper and nickel are enabling green technologies and highlights why they are essential for a utopian energy future.
Copper: Transporting Clean Energy
When it comes to conducting electricity, copper is second only to silver. This property makes it an indispensable building block for multiple energy technologies, including:
- Electric vehicles: On average, a typical electric car contains 53kg of copper, primarily found in the wirings and car components.
- Solar power: Solar panels use 2.8 tonnes of copper per megawatt (MW) of installed capacity, mainly for heat exchangers, wiring, and cabling.
- Wind energy: Onshore wind turbines contain 2.9 tonnes of copper per MW of capacity. Offshore wind turbines, which typically use copper in undersea cables, use 8 tonnes per MW.
- Power grids: Copper, alongside aluminum, is the preferred choice for electric transmission and distribution networks due to its reliability and efficiency.
BloombergNEF projects that, due to its expansive role in clean energy, the demand for copper from clean energy applications will double by 2030 from 2020 levels. The table below compares annual copper demand from clean energy, in tonnes, in 2020 vs. 2030:
|Year||Power Grids||EV batteries||Wind||Solar||EV charging||Total
Although power grids will account for the largest portion of annual copper demand through 2030, EV batteries are projected to spearhead the growth.
Nickel: Powering Lithium-ion Batteries
Nickel is a key ingredient in lithium-ion batteries for EVs and stationary energy storage systems. For EVs, nickel-based cathodes offer more energy density and longer driving ranges as compared to cathodes with lower nickel content.
According to Wood Mackenzie, batteries could account for 41% of global nickel demand by 2030, up from just 7% in 2021.
|End-use||2021 % of Nickel Demand||2040P % of Nickel Demand|
Nickel-based cathodes for lithium-ion batteries, including NMC (Nickel Manganese Cobalt) and NCA (Nickel Cobalt Aluminum), are prevalent in EVs and make up more than 50% of the battery cathode chemistry market.
A Bright Future for Copper and Nickel
Both copper and nickel are essential building blocks of EVs and other key technologies for the energy transition and ultimately energy utopia.
As more such technologies are deployed, these metals are likely to be in high demand, with clean energy applications supplementing their existing industrial uses.
CanAlaska is a leading exploration company with a strategic portfolio of uranium, nickel, and copper projects in North America. Click here to learn more.
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