What are the anti-microbial benefits of copper

Anti-microbial properties of metals

There is scientific evidence to show that certain metals alloys containing copper have antiviral and antimicrobial properties that creates a protective nature to surfaces. Copper ions damage the cell membranes of bacteria, viruses and fungi while being completely safe to touch for humans (Wayne, 2020). In fact the US Environmental Protection agency (US EPA) recognised copper as the first antimicrobial metal in 2008. This unique

characteristic is consistent throughout its life as long as it is cleaned regularly and continues even why recycled or mixed with other metals to create alloys. In fact ancient civilisations used copper for these properties well before western society started to use it in drinking and other transported materials via copper tubes (Wikipedia, 2022). These ancient copper containers can be seen in museums around the world and although not understood molecularly it is clear that this metal was preferred due to its antimicrobial effects and twin this with durability, lightness and recyclability it further confirms the brilliant attributes of copper.

Applications of copper in the built environment

The centuries old knowledge of copper as a antimicrobial material has been aplied to high traffic areas in our most vulnerable parts of the built environment. This is in the form of fixtures and fittings in hospitals to large pipes transporting drinking water. Copper is seen in the built environment in lots of forms due to its flexible and malleable nature, for instance plates, tubes, coating, wires and rods. These various forms have also been used recently against the spread of infections diseases like SARS, influenza and norovirus. Such studies have revealed how copper ions and nano-particles effect these micro- organisms, all without any effect on humans (Salah, Parkin and Allan, 2021)

Copper is a versatile material

With these great attributes in a microbial sense it is also good to understand that copper can be used in large formats that also reflect this characteristics and these are found in the form of pressure vessels, distillation equipment, piping systems and gaskets. According to the Copper Development Association (CDA) there are four different areas of industry where copper is utilised.

Electrical : 65% Construction : 25% Transport : 7% Other : 3%

Is Copper is a sustainable resource?

Applications and source of copper
The applications for copper is immense and it is one of the most commonly used base
metals and a reliable indicator of our economic health (Fastmarkets, 2022). One of the
least know applications is its importance in the renewable energies production and
specifically battery production for EV cars and technology surrounding the storage of
energy, to meet the challenges of Net Zero 2050. There are 390 primary copper mines in
the world according to McKinsey & Company (2022) with Chile hosting six of the largest
copper mines in the world. The Escondida mine produces 7% of all global production
(Mining.com, 2021) and with 54% of the worlds refined copper being used by China in
2020, its demand in the future does not seem to be declining.

Copper recycling

With copper following the global economic health it is no wonder that copper recycling is a huge business with the Chinese importing 1.69 million tonnes of copper and copper alloy scrap in 2021 (Fastmarkets, 2022). The fact that scrap copper ends up in China is starting to again impact on the secondary copper output at 2.257 million tonnes and this copper-recycling closed-loop system is starting to grow again as the restrictions on lower grade concept is more widely accepted by ‘climate-sensitive” customers. The large copper users and producers recently pledged to make recycled copper 25% of their total production by 2025.

Sustainability in using recycled copper

The extraction of copper will be required for years to come and it is a finite resource but the fact that it can so widely and easily be recycled offers a unique dimension to it as a product. It is also has a much lower percentage of contribution to GHG (Green House Gas) emissions (0.1%, Azevedo, M. et al. 2022) than other materials like steel, plastics and cement. In fact this ‘green premium’ product far exceeds the recyclability of plastic with only 17% of global production being recycled, although this is set to rise. Copper in

fact has a low-C02 market that is being driven by the EV market that is demanding this

type of material produced with much lower emissions. These innovations in products that seek to be more sustainable are benefiting the copper production market to drive it to be a much more sustainable product.