With an anticipated global market worth US$171.96 billion by 2023, demand for copper is on a major upswing. And as emerging economies develop further, and more applications for copper are found, demand for ‘the red metal’ will rapidly increase. But what exactly is spurring this surge in demand? Here, Melissa Albeck from online materials database Matmatch, gives six reasons why copper is critical to the future of technology and industry — and our planet.
Two thirds of the copper produced since 1900 is still in productive use. Few other resources can match that figure, and as environmental sustainability rises to the top of the global agenda, it makes sense that manufacturers will want to be seen as vanguards for positive change.
Copper’s infinite recyclability not only helps mitigate pollution caused by the production of materials such as wood and plastic, but it’s also key to the recycling of minerals such as silver, gold and nickel. Every year, 8.5 million tonnes of copper are recycled.
According to a report commissioned by the International Copper Association (ICA) for IDTechEx, the number of roadworthy electric and hybrid vehicles is expected to reach 27 million by 2027.
Compared to the internal combustion engine, battery-powered vehicles require approximately 60kg more copper, the result of which is a projected 600 kilotonnes in additional copper demand by 2027.
All over the world, people face severe droughts, flooding, and contaminated water supplies. Population growth, global warming, inefficient infrastructure – if radical action isn’t taken to counter these trends, the crisis will only worsen.
As a durable, recyclable and impermeable material, copper will prove critical in the delivery of clean water and resolve one of Earth’s biggest humanitarian challenges.
According to a 2017 study by the International Energy Agency (IEA), sectors previously confined to fossil fuels are becoming increasingly electrified. The result is millions of new appliances, cooling systems and vehicles in need of power; power conducted and distributed by copper. Add in the global demand for renewable energy, and this demand will only surge further as suppliers source copper for wind farms and solar energy systems.
Global life expectancy may be rising, but challenges driven by antibiotic resistance mean we must work harder than ever to minimise the risk of public infection. Copper is antimicrobial by nature, making it an ideal choice of material for use in public areas such as hospitals, schools, and gyms.
In fact, Bloomberg Markets believes public health applications may see the surge in demand for copper by as much as 1 million tons per year over the next 20 years.
Just as we’ve seen in the automotive and energy industries, architects are turning to copper components to decrease the environmental impact of new buildings. In North America, copper has even been used to clad, adorn and embellish buildings to aid durability and sustainability. Copper’s corrosion-resistant properties can even help these buildings withstand damage from extreme weather conditions.
These are just a handful of the ways that copper will prove invaluable to innovation and product development in the coming years. We recently released an e-book exploring the rise of copper and the factors driving demand, which you can download for free from the Matmatch website for more information on this rapidly growing, fascinating material.