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copper

Properties

Copper is a reddish metal with a face-centered cubic crystalline structure. It is malleable, ductile, and an extremely good conductor of both heat and electricity. It is softer than iron but harder than zinc and can be polished to a bright finish. It is found in Group 11 of the periodic table, together with silver and gold. Copper has low chemical reactivity. In moist air it slowly forms a greenish surface film (usually a mixture of carbonate, sulfate, hydroxide, and oxide) called patina; this coating protects the metal from further attack. Copper dissolves in hot concentrated hydrochloric or sulfuric acid but is little affected by cold solutions of these acids; it also dissolves in nitric acid. Salt water corrodes copper, forming a chloride.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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