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Health and Safety

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Copper is non-toxic and presents no risks with long term contact. Consequently, the legislative controls and continuing programme of health monitoring needed for site workers and those handling other metals such as lead do not apply to copper workers.

The weight of copper needed to cover a given area is substantially less than that of lead, reducing lifting problems – particularly at high levels. Copper is therefore a safer alternative to lead for flashings and other weatherings – even on non-copper roofs.

Copper maintains a consistent malleability and ‘feel’ which makes manual working entirely predictable. Indeed, hard metal roofing installers show a clear preference towards copper over other metals. It can be worked at all temperatures and, unlike metals such as zinc, does not become brittle and break to form sharp edges in cold weather.

Copper is ideally suited to mechanisation techniques, including preforming of trays and joints in safe locations and the use of automatic seaming machines on roofs, minimising high level work (as recommended by the Health and Safety Executive).

An adult needs 100mg of copper, with 2-3mg consumed daily to replace what is lost by metabolic processes. A deficiency in copper is one factor in the increased risk of developing heart disease.

Copper Roofing Contractors

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Contact details for UK copper roofing contractors for projects in the UK and throughout the world.

Select the area of the project for a list of copper roofing contractors who are willing to work in that particular area.

Please note that Copper Development Association does not operate an approvals scheme for copper roofing contractors.

For the UK and Ireland, select region for a list of contractors in that area.

For contractors who work overseas, please see the following lists:

Technology

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The combination of copper’s properties and recyclability make it a key material for technological innovation and eco-design in renewable energy, communications and automotive applications.

The International Copper Association, Ltd (ICA) runs a technology programme to support research and development and the bringing of new technology to market. Guidelines are set out for those wishing to apply for support from this programme – see below.

Funding for Copper R&D

R&D funding has been made available to researchers in academia or industry through the International Copper Association Technology Programme. Find out more by reading the Technology Roadmap.

Global Call for Proposals

The International Copper Association, Ltd (ICA) regularly announces a Call for Research Proposals related to copper, copper alloys and copper compounds. Also sought are ideas for the design and manufacturing of new products incorporating copper metals. One-year awards of up to US$100,000 are available for the most promising proposals. The ICA may consider an extension of funding or additional funding on projects with significant commercialisation potential that show good initial results. The 2009/2010 call is now closed but ideas related to topics such as these are always welcome:

Project Examples

Copper technology is on the verge of a breakthrough that will allow deep-sea power cables to operate at higher voltages (beyond 170 kilovolts) and at greater depths than ever before.

Design and Manufacture

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Copper and copper alloys have a wide range of properties available to a designer. These include the best electrical conductivity of any metal, excellent corrosion resistance in the atmosphere and water, a wide range of colours giving aesthetic appeal and excellent ductility. CDA is able to assist designers in choosing the optimum combination of properties for a specific application as well as advising on the most appropriate manufacturing process.

An important consideration for any designer when selecting materials is recyclability; all copper alloys are fully recyclable, without loss of properties.

www.copperindesign.org – a new website has been launched.

A comprehensive source of information on copper crafting for designers, manufacturers, artists, journalists and all with an interest in copper as an essential feature of the modern design scene. The site features numerous examples of copper in art and design, indoors and outdoors, alongside comments from the artists on their experiences and creative approaches.

Copper Compounds

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In addition to their many uses in agriculture and biology, copper salts have an astonishing variety of industrial uses, chiefly of a specialised nature, and there is hardly an industry which does not have some small use for them. The following pages briefly describe a few of the more important copper compounds and list some of their uses with particular reference to copper sulphate. It is worth noting that copper is an indispensable constituent of all living tissues and is essential for the normal growth and wellbeing of plants and animals. Where it is lacking it has to be supplied.

The minute quantities of copper needed for human health are usually obtained through the normal intake of food and water. Copper and its compounds are not toxic like some other metals, such as lead or mercury. There are no records of any occupational diseases attributable to copper among people who have worked for any years with the metal or its salts. Indeed it has sometimes been said that such people often appear healthier and generally suffer less from colds and other ailments. Copper bangles and other adornments are reputed to relieve and prevent rheumatic pains. Copper water storage vessels, copper kettles and copper cooking pans have been used for generations.

Common copper compounds for agricultural and chemical uses are:

  • Anhydrous and monohydrated copper sulphate – see uses of copper sulphate.
  • Copper acetates
  • Cuprous oxide
  • Cupric oxide (black copper oxide)
  • Cupric chloride
  • Copper oxychloride
  • Cuprous chloride
  • Cupric nitrate
  • Copper cyanide
  • Copper soaps
  • Copper naphthenate

Automotive

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Copper is a multi-purpose material whose properties have made it a key component in vehicles since the dawn of the car industry with the Model T Ford in 1916. Today, copper plays a critical role in cars for functionality, efficiency, comfort and safety. Even the most basic model contains some 1 km of wiring, mostly used to carry data, send control signals and supply electrical power. The total weight of copper in a vehicle ranges from 15 kilos for a small car to 28 kilos for a luxury car.

Electrical Equipment
Motors, alternators, actuators and electrical chokes, and the wiring harness itself, all depend on reliable high conductivity (see Pub 122). More copper will be needed as automotive electrical developments increase awareness, safety and automation. High quality brass has the long-life springiness and resistance to corrosion that makes it ideal for electrical connections (see Pub 117).

Electronics
Car designers and manufacturers are constantly developing electronic applications which rely on the electrical conductivity of copper:

Sensors (pressure, temperature, speed)
Sensors for the automotive industry make up around a third of the global sensor market. With a true sensory system for the car, the sensors allow, for example, dangers on the road to be detected, braking to be adapted, the temperature inside to be controlled, self-diagnosis tests to be run on the vehicle. They make use of copper, notably, in the coils and cables.

ABS or Antilock Braking System
This was one of the first ‘smart’ technologies, designed to make driving safer by adjusting the braking depending on the grip. Since then, a whole series of innovations have expanded the solutions available with regard to braking and road grip, including EBD (Electronic Brake-force Distribution) for improved distribution of the brake force or ESC (Electronic Stability Control) that enhances the stability of the car.

Driving Controls
More than a mere speed regulator, the AICC (Autonomous Intelligent Cruise Control) allows a speed previously set by the driver to be maintained without having to keep the foot on the accelerator. A technology available on top of automatic transmission, the AICC monitors the speed of the vehicle in front and changes its own speed accordingly, while keeping a good safety distance.

The car is now much more than a pure means of transportation. It is designed to be comfortable and equipped with work and leisure spaces. Thanks to an ever increasing number of applications that exploit copper’s benefits, the seats are able to remember and automatically adjust to the passenger thanks to an array of small motors. Automatic temperature controls keep the interior at a comfortable level and telecommunications are accessible from even the most modest cockpits (hands-free mobile phones, navigation assistance, security trackers, DVD players and even internet connectivity). Copper has opened up a new window onto the world.

In the future, it is likely we will have an autopilot system driven by accelerometers, combined with actuators that will control driving, speed and braking. 360° radar and cameras will keep a constant eye on traffic and the vehicle’s position. Connecting the myriad of connectors, sensors, mini-computers and advanced telecommunications systems, nestling under the bonnet of our smart cars, it will be copper wires that will carry the key power and data signals that will deliver all of the above benefits.

Reducing Emissions
Copper has an important role to play in systems designed to reduce petrol consumption and CO2 emissions. Direct injection systems allow a more precise control of the air to petrol ratio, thereby cutting fuel consumption and exhaust emissions. Traditional camshafts are also slowly being replaced with electronic valves that further improve engine efficiency.

Copper has a role to play in hybrid and fuel cell vehicles and researchers are actively looking at new propulsion systems. Firstly, hybrids which combine conventional combustion engines with electric motors can provide an interim solution. Conventional fuels are used for long journeys and the electric motor for the urban environment. Secondly, work is being done to develop fuel cell driven engines, a solution that creates almost no pollution. These two different systems, both with their powerful electric motors, can contain up to 12 kg of copper.

Heat Exchangers
A new heat exchanger has been developed using CuproBraze® technology, a cost-effective, environmentally friendly process, low in investment cost. It produces strong, reliable brazed copper/brass radiators with performance and cost advantages over aluminum radiators.

Copper Fire Sprinklers

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The main cause of fatalities in dwelling fires is carelessness with hot substances, including smoking materials, accounting for 32% of deaths. It should be noted that 82% of households in the UK are equipped with smoke detection and that only 13% of the dwelling fires were discovered by smoke alarms.

In recent years residential sprinkler systems have been seen as one way to safeguard the vulnerable members of society from fire. Copper has a well established reputation as a pipework material being easily jointed, light in weight, capable of withstanding high temperature, delivering required flow rates, durable and reliable.

Homes protected by copper fire sprinkler systems offer peace of mind to the occupants as, in the event of a fire breaking out, the sprinkler system will tackle the fire in its initial stages, buying valuable escape time, prior to the arrival of the Fire Brigade

Copper is the ideal choice for pipework in domestic and residential properties for all the same reasons that it is used for the cold and hot water services:

  • Copper tube has a proven ability to transport water around homes.
  • Copper pipework can be quickly and neatly joined using either soldered joints or the new copper push-fit and press fittings.
  • The ease with which joints of all kinds can be formed is a distinct advantage when space is limited.
  • Purpose made tube bends can be used to reduce the pressure losses in the pipework.
  • The lightness of copper and its rigidity make it easy to install in confined spaces and means relatively few hangers and supports for straight pipe runs.
  • Copper has excellent corrosion resistance to atmosphere and water and this leads to a long maintenance-free installation life.
  • Copper is 100% recyclable, ad infinitum, and so has excellent ecodesign credentials.

Life Cycle Data for Copper Products

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There is a steadily increasing demand from material specifiers and users, as well as from regulators, NGOs and research institutes, for up-to-date life cycle information on competing materials, particularly in the building and construction sector. Until now, this information has largely been provided by third party consultants and academics, based on models and public literature sources. As a result, the available life cycle data for copper products has been extremely varied and not sufficiently representative of the reality.

The copper industry has responded to this market need by developing up-to-date life cycle data for its tube, sheet and wire products.

The information has been prepared in cooperation with recognised life cycle practitioners, using international methodologies (ISO standards), leading software (GaBi) and proprietary production data collected from across the copper industry.

Further information and specific data can be requested from the Life Cycle Centre, operated by the German Copper Institute (DKI). Click on the link below to go to their website where enquiries can be submitted online.

Glossary of Copper Terms

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Admiralt y brass70/30 brass with 1% tin added for extra corrosion resistance.
AgeingCopper alloys such as copper-beryllium and copper chromium are hardened by heat treatment of solution treatment followed by quenching, then ageing at low temperatures to develop improved mechanical properties.
AlloyA copper alloy is a partial or complete solid solution of copper with one or more alloying elements such as zinc, tin, nickel, aluminium or silicon.
Alpha brassBrass containing up to 36% of zinc is usually the single alpha phase with good cold working properties.
Alpha-beta brassBrass containing over 36% of zinc or with other additions usually has two phases present, alpha and beta.
Aluminium brassHigh copper brass with aluminium added for improved corrosion resistance. This is often used for condenser tubes.
Aluminium bronzeCopper-aluminium alloy with up to 13% of aluminium, usually also with other additions such as iron, manganese, nickel and/or silicon.
Annealing (full)Heating copper/copper alloys to 500-550oC in order to produce complete softening.
Anode copperCast slabs of copper from the fire refining processes used as starters for electrolytic refining.
AntleriteCopper sulphide ore.
Arsenical copperCopper with arsenic additions used primarily for the manufacture of boiler fireboxes. Now obsolete.
Arsenical brassBrass with improved corrosion resistance containing arsenic, and frequently aluminium.
ASMAmerican Society for Metals.
ASTMAmerican Society for Testing and Materials, responsible for standards for metals.
AzuriteCopper carbonate ore.
BackwardationLME term used when the price for cash copper commands a premium over the price for copper in three months time. Caused by temporary shortages in spot supplies.
Beryllium copperThe highest strength of any copper alloy, achieved by heat treatment (ageing) and cold working.
Beta brassA brass with very high zinc content may be mostly of beta structure. This is brittle and used only as a brazing filler alloy.
Blister copperThe copper produced after sulphur is removed; it is made by blowing air through the mixture; this produces gaseous sulphur dioxide which forms blister-like bubbles on the surface.
Blue vitriolCopper sulphate.
Bordeaux mixtureCopper sulphate-lime mixture used as an adherent fungicide, especially for grapevines.
BorniteCopper sulphide ore.
BrassCopper-zinc alloy, also used to describe a memorial plate in a church, coinage or bearing block. Originally the term also covered copper-tin alloys now called bronzes. Also used to describe a tin-zinc spelter made for the manufacture of organ pipes.
Brass lumpMiners term for massive iron pyrites (fools’ gold).
Brinell HardnessStandard hardness test using a specified load on a ball indenter (HB).
BronzeCopper-tin alloy, term also loosely used for some other copper alloys.
Burgundy mixtureSolution of copper sulphate and sodium carbonate developed in 1885 for the prevention of mildew and other diseases on grapevines.
BusbarsCopper bar or section used for carrying heavy currents. Busbars are generally rigid when compared to cables.
Cadmium copperCopper with an addition of cadmium for good strength and wear resistance without significant loss of conductivity.
Cathode copperPure copper, the product of electrolytic refining supplied for melting for the manufacture of products.
Cartridge brass70/30 brass with good cold working properties.
CENEuropean Standards Organisation. ‘EN’ standards are being adopted by all European countries.
Chalcocite, copper glanceCuprous sulphide ore.
ChalcopyriteCopper sulphide ore.
ChrysocollaCopper silicate ore.
Cold workingDeforming a metal at a temperature below that of recrystallisation so that the metal hardens.
Continuous castingProduction method for castings where the molten metal is continuously poured into an open mould while the solidified metal is slowly withdrawn and coiled or cut to length by flying saw. May be a vertical, sidecasting or upcasting process.
Common brass63/37 brass, standard cheap brass for cold working. It is now usually a 64/36 alloy to give improved corrosion resistance.
ContangoLME term applied when the price quoted for copper due for delivery in three months’ time is higher than that for cash copper on that day. This is the normal market situation, financing the interest charge.
Copper bottomTo sheath the bottom of ships with copper to prevent attack by the Toredo worm and prevent the attachment of biofouling including molluscs that slow the ship, first applied to British ships in 1761. Now used as a term of assurance of quality.
Copper headA venomous snake, common in the United States of America
Copper-nickelCovers copper alloys with less than 50% of nickel.
Copper noseSlang term for inflamed nose, acne rosaaca, a bacterial infection treatable by antibiotics.
Copper plateA polished plate of copper on which a design is engraved for printing.
Copper wallTerm used in sugar making to describe a double row of copper pans served by a common fire.
CovelliteCopper sulphide ore.
CupriteCopper oxide ore.
CupronickelAn alternative term for copper-nickel alloy.
Deep drawingForming hollow components by using a punch and die to give significant plastic deformation.
Deoxidised copperCopper that has had deoxidiser added to reduce oxygen. Phosphorus is commonly added but other elements such as boron or magnesium may be used.
DezincificationSelective corrosion of the beta phase of duplex brass that leaves a copper residue under a ‘meringue’ of zinc oxide.
DINGerman National Standards Organisation
DGSDirector General Ships standards – obsolete, replaced by NES series, which in turn has been replaced by DSTAN (UK Defence Standardisation).
DHPPhosphorus deoxidised copper (previously known as ‘Dona’ copper).
DLPDeoxidised copper, low phosphorus.
DTDDirectorate of Technical Development, military specifications.
DrawingThe process of pulling a metal through a die to reduce the cross section, usually performed cold.
DuctilityEase with which material can be formed, for example by drawing, bending or rolling. The property is usually measured as elongation in a tensile test or by a bend or deep-drawability test.
Duplex brassSee alpha-beta brass.
ETPElectrolytic tough pitch copper, standard high conductivity copper.
ExtrusionA hot working process in which a heated billet is forced to deform by being pushed through a die to produce a long product of uniform cross-section.
Extrusion ratioThe ratio of the cross-sectional area of a billet to that of the extruded product.
Fire-refined copperCopper refined by melting and processing in an open hearth or rotary furnace.
Galvanic compatibilityWhen exposed to seawater or any electrolyte, metals show a voltage dependent on the electrochemical series. Metals with near-similar voltages are compatible. Metals with differing voltages are likely to cause galvanic corrosion. It is always the anode which corrodes.
GangueThe unwanted rock in copper ore.
German silverObsolete term for nickel silver.
Gilding metalBrass with high copper, usually 90/10 but sometimes 80/20.
GunmetalCopper-tin-zinc casting alloy.
Heat treatable alloyAn alloy capable of being strengthened by heat treatment, usually involving solution treatment followed by ageing (precipitation) treatment.
High conductivity copperStandard form of copper with a purity giving a conductivity of 100% IACS or more.
High tensile brassBrass with additions, typically iron, nickel, manganese and/or aluminium to give better strength and, usually, better corrosion resistance.
HippingA proprietary process for treating metals at very high pressures to compact them to produce good properties.
Hot workingPlastic deformation of a metal at a temperature high enough to promote recrystallisation, thus preventing cold working.
IACSInternational annealed copper standard, a value for conductivity agreed in 1913 with copper being given the value of 100%, equivalent to 58MS/m or a mass resistivity of 0.15176 Ωg/m2. Advances in refining mean that high conductivity copper is now frequently of 103% conductivity.
ICAInternational Copper Association.
INCRAInternational Copper Research Association, now superseded by ICA.
ISOInternational Standards Organisation.
Leaded brassUsually a duplex brass with an addition of lead to give excellent machinability. 
LMELondon Metal Exchange.
MalachiteCopper carbonate ore.
Manganese bronzeObsolete term for high tensile brass.
MILAmerican military specifications.
MonelA nickel-copper alloy, usually 70/30, originally produced directly from a copper-nickel ore in Sudbury, Ontario.
Muntz metalA 60/40 brass with good castability and hot working properties.
Native copperPure copper that occurs in nature without being bound up within an ore.
Naval brass60/40 brass with 1% tin added for extra corrosion resistance.
Near net shape formingForming a product near to final shape so that it needs little further finishing.
NESNaval Engineering Standards.
Nickel silverCopper-nickel-zinc alloy.
Oxygen-free copperCopper melted and cast under controlled atmosphere to give low residual oxygen content.
Oxygen-free electronic copperOxygen free copper containing low residual volatile elements.
PatinaA protective film that develops on copper on exposure to the atmosphere. In most non-polluted environments it is basic copper carbonate but in industrial and urban areas it is mainly basic copper sulphate.
Paris GreenCopper-arsenic compound.
Phosphor bronzeA copper-tin phosphorous alloy, hard and strong.
PolingPart of the old fire refining process that involves reducing the oxidised charge by submerging green wood in the liquid copper.
Red BrassAmerican term for copper-tin-zinc alloy (gunmetal).
Rivet brassAmerican term for common brass.
Rockwell HardnessStandard American hardness test with several ranges of loads and indenters, HRB, HRC.
SAESociety of Automotive Engineers (USA)
Tough pitch copperObsolete term for copper containing oxygen at about 0.03-0.07% which gave a level ‘set’ to the top of a wirebar when statically cast horizontally .
VerdigrisA strikingly green corrosion product that forms on copper in some circumstances, a complex basic copper acetate. Unlike a patina, it is water-soluble.
Vickers HardnessStandard hardness test using a load on a diamond pyramid indenter (HV, VPN or VHN).
Wrought productComponent made by hot or cold deformation of a cast product, removing the original cast structure.

CPD Training

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Copper Development Association and its partners and members can provide in-house training events, tailored to your company’s needs, on the following topics:

  • Copper in Architecture: Rediscover Copper, Roofing and Cladding for Modern Buildings – for architects (RIBA accredited).
  • Alloys in the Marine Environment – for anyone involved in the design, specification, fabrication and operation of materials in contact with seawater for wave and tidal, offshore wind energy, offshore oil/gas and ship building and repair industries.
  • Copper and copper alloys – metallurgy, properties and applications – for designers and engineers.
  • Cost-effective design and manufacture in brass – for design engineers. See also Design in Brass seminar page.
  • Antimicrobial properties of copper and copper alloys – for designers, architects, infection control specialists.

To request a CPD presentation, please use the enquiry form. Please note, a minimum audience size requirement will apply.

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