Copper is a chemical element with symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a soft, malleable and ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. A freshly exposed surface of pure copper has a reddish-orange color. It is used as a conductor of heat and electricity, as a building material, and as a constituent of various metal alloys.
Copper is found as a pure metal in nature, and this was the source of the first metal to be used by humans, ca. 8,000 BC; it was the first metal to be smelted from its ore, ca. 5,000 BC; it was the first metal to be cast into a shape in a mold, ca. 4,000 BC; and it was the first metal to be purposefully alloyed with another metal, tin, to create bronze, ca. 3,500.
Copper is essential to all living organisms as a trace dietary mineral because it is a key constituent of the respiratory enzyme complex cytochrome c oxidase. In molluscs and crustacea copper is a constituent of the blood pigment hemocyanin, which is replaced by the iron-complexed hemoglobin in fish and other vertebrates. The main areas where copper is found in humans are liver, muscle and bone. Copper compounds are used as bacteriostatic substances, fungicides, and wood preservatives.
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