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How Strong is Copper?

Copper, a reddish-gold metal, is known for its ductility and high thermal and electrical conductivity, but when it comes to tensile strength, it's considered moderate compared to other metals. Pure copper's tensile strength is about 210 to 250 megapascals (MPa), which means it can withstand a good amount of stretching before breaking. For context, high-strength steel can have a tensile strength upwards of 550 MPa. However, copper's strength can be significantly increased through the process of cold-working or by creating copper alloys, such as bronze and brass, which are much stronger due to the addition of other metals like tin or zinc.


Despite not being the strongest metal, copper's resilience is evident in its other properties. It's highly resistant to corrosion, which makes it ideal for plumbing, roofing, and electrical wiring, where longevity is crucial. According to the Copper Development Association, copper roofing, for example, can last over 100 years. Moreover, its antimicrobial properties are increasingly recognized, with studies showing that copper surfaces can kill bacteria and viruses, potentially reducing the spread of infections. This combination of durability, conductivity, and health benefits makes copper a versatile and valuable material in various industries.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Copper is a metal that is known for possessing both ductile and malleable properties. When thinking in terms of its strength, it is important to keep both of these characteristics in mind. Here are some examples of how it demonstrates a great deal of strength in comparison to other metals.

When it comes to being a malleable metal, few substances can compare to copper. Essentially, a malleable substance can be stretched, shaped, and bent without experiencing any cracking or breakage. When it comes to producing products made of metal components such as piping, this can be very important. Unlike some plastics and metals such as iron that can become brittle under certain processes, copper will give without breaking, making it very easy to work with. The finished product will often be easy to install and also easy to maintain, since the metal does not have a tendency to corrode with the ease of some others.

Copper wire.
Copper wire.

From the perspective of ductile properties, copper can undergo a great deal of stress before any type of fracturing will take place. This is in contrast to steel, which becomes less ductile as more carbon is introduced into the mix. By contrast, copper will not become brittle under the same level of stress. In terms of rolling or hammering into shape, it will win hands down over more brittle metals that have to be melted and poured into molds.

Small nuggets of pure copper.
Small nuggets of pure copper.

As both a malleable and ductile metal, various types of copper and its alloys are the obvious choices for many different types of products. These may include a wide range of kitchen tools and appliances, such as cookware and teapots. Piping made from this metal works well for many aspects of home plumbing as well as systems in public buildings. Copper plating is often used for roofs and other outside portions of structures. Easy to work with and long lasting, it is indeed a very strong metal.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including InfoBloom, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including InfoBloom, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments

Melonlity

@Markerrag -- that is good advice for professional installers, but what about amateurs that like to do projects for themselves? They are the ones prone to making measurement mistakes and are also the ones inclined to force a copper pipe in place when it doesn't fit.

If your pipe is too long, there are plenty of inexpensive ways to cut that piece down so it fits properly (just ask your local hardware pro about your options there).

If it is too short, that is when you need to get another piece of pipe. Amateurs are often tempted to use a connector in those cases but that is a bad idea. Connectors tend to develop leaks over time so you want to use them as rarely as you can. Remember -- those make good connectors but bad extenders.

Markerrag

Copper is very strong in situations where it is put in place and not stressed. Like all metal products, you can tear a whole in a copper pipe when it is under constant stress.

That might seem obvious, but the thing about using it as pipe material is that some people try to cheat and bend copper into place if they don't measure properly and wind up with a piece that is bit too big or a bit too small. If you find yourself in that situation, just use another piece of copper pipe that is sized correctly. You will save yourself some headaches down the road.

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    • Copper wire.
      By: Dmitry DG
      Copper wire.
    • Small nuggets of pure copper.
      By: Ekaterina Fribus
      Small nuggets of pure copper.
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      A pot made out of copper.
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      A copper bracelet.