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Copper

Bill cuts a copper pipe from his ceilng to show the five properties of copper that make it the most important metal for our world: From clean water to electronics.

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Transcript I want to tell you about the most amazing material in the world. Our lives depend on it. It's usually hidden .... It's right there.

Now, copper is the most important metal because it has five properties that are unique to copper.

Other metals have some of these properties, but only copper has them all.

For example, three properties are important for this pipe. First of all we have safe drinking water because water doesn't leach copper. You can see that this is easily bent. So we can use it to snake around nooks and grannies in the ceiling.

And also copper plays friendly with other metals: For example, the waterproof solider joint is made from the metals tin and antimony.

The same three properties also make a trumpet possible. Water, of course, enters here as spit, but it doesn't dissolve the trumpet's metal.

You can see it depends on copper's ability to be easily shaped, but most importantly it relies on copper playing friendly with other metals. This is made from brass, which is a combination - or alloy - of copper and zinc. And its what gives the trumpet its unique sound.

So, without copper we would have no safe drinking water, and none of the beautiful brass music.

Now, our electronic world also depends on copper. For example, in this radio I cut the back off so you can see how its printed circuit board depends on three properties of copper.

It's made by depositing a thin layer of copper on a piece of plastic. Of course, that uses copper's ability to be shaped easily.

Lastly, copper tolerates heat well. So, when the radio heats up its able to withstand that heat.

Now, there's one more think that depends on all three properties of copper just like our electronics: And that is an air conditioner.

If you take a look over here you can see the copper coils. These exist because copper can be shaped easily. And because these are what dissipated heat to the outside world. It makes use of copper's ability to conduct heat.

And also, all power cords use copper because conducts electricity well and its very flexible.

So, without copper then we would have no radio, and so no appliances - nothing that runs off of electricity - no a/c, no computers, no lighting!

Now, the very last property of copper is that it is 100% recyclable, in fact 80% of all copper is reused.