Wires are the most basic units of the electrical and electronic world. They are the lifelines of the automated world. From the simplest of gadgets to expensive industrial transformers, wires made of copper guarantee that we are never pushed back to the Dark Ages. The bare copper wires are the romantic elements gracing the machines like poetry. They are used as grounding wires to prevent shocks, and also as transmission wires to pass on important messages through Morse codes. In recent times, the 150 years of consistent performance and sustainability of the bare copper wires have met a strong competition from the fibre optic cables.
Why copper wires are so popular?
Copper was one of the first metals to be discovered and used as a utility. They were used to make tools and ornaments. It was majorly because of copper and its ores that men learnt to wage wars and win battles. The weapons and armours were made using copper and its alloys. By the turn of 17th century, bare copper wires became popular as a tensile material with high ductility and malleability.
How is copper extracted?
There are about 15 ores known to man from which copper can be extracted profitably. The bare copper wires are majorly extracted from the sulphide ores. There are other ores as well like oxides, carbonates and hydroxides.
Chalcopyrite, CuFeS2 is also called as copper pyrite. Along with Chalcocite, Cu2S, Chalcopyrite are popular sulphide ores used in huge volumes to extract copper for the manufacturing of bare copper wires and stranded copper wires. Other ores used in the industrial manufacturing of bare copper wires are Tennantite, Boronite, Chrysocolla, and Atacamite.
How are copper wires made?
Copper wires are made from ore of copper. Bare copper wires are drawn using metal mined from open pit and underground quarries. The processing of copper wire is called as beneficiation. It is the very first step in the production of bare copper wires from the ores into usable forms. Processing of copper is important in concentrating the pure element in the wire and ensuring that the properties qualify for industrial and domestic applications.
Beneficiation is followed by smelting and extraction. It is used to make bare cooper wires for anode manufacturing. The smelting is done for sulphide ore concentration. The extraction of copper is done to remove oxides using leach solutions. All these processes make the copper wire free from oxides that can cause electrical flaws and physical defects in the long run. It is also important to treat the bare copper wires to ensure that the surface remains free from any corrosive reaction.
The processed bare copper wires are suitable to be used as high purity wires after they are finally processed from the sulphide ores. They are not the final forms of industrial wires though. They may undergo subsequent coating, electroplating and insulation processes before being rendered useful for industrial and general domestic applications.
While the different industrial process extracts copper by physically and chemically removing the impurities, the final objective is to increase the concentration of copper in the bare and stranded wires.