What is copper wire used for?


Quick Answer

Copper wire is used widely for power transmission and is also used in potable water and heating systems. Copper wire can be found in building construction, electric and electronic products, transportation equipment, consumer and general products, and industrial machinery and equipment.

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Full Answer

Copper has been used widely since the 1820s for electrical wires. Over half of the world’s global copper production is consumed for electrical transmission needs. Copper is resistant to corrosion, carries electricity efficiently and can be formed into wire easily. Almost all electrical wiring is made from copper, with the exception of high-voltage aluminum transmissions lines. Everything in the home that has an electrical plug likely has copper wire in it.

Copper is well-suited to conduct electricity because of its atomic structure. Its outermost conduction band is only half filled with electrons, making for easy transmission of electrons up and down the length of a copper wire. Only silver is a better conductor of electricity than copper, but its cost makes it unusable for power transmission. Aluminum is the fourth-best electrical conductor (after silver, copper and gold) and is used in applications where the cost or weight of copper presents a problem.

Since copper inhibits bacterial growth in water, potable water systems often use copper tubing. Its corrosion-resistant properties also make it ideal for transporting water.

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