Monday, September 02, 2013

Countdown to Opening Night by the Elements: Number 29

As we start picking up momentum toward opening night of the 2013-2014 NHL season, we are picking up momentum in Fearless’ countdown of the elements of the periodic table…


Copper has been used by humans for at least 10,000 years, one of the oldest uses of metals by humans.  And in all that time it has been a fixture (so to speak) in infrastructure – utensils, wire and cable, piping.  It is uniquely suitable for such uses in that it is an excellent thermal and electrical conductor.  It also has been used in architecture where it can be readily identified in many instances by its green patina, a product of weathering or corrosion.

Practical functions are not the only applications for copper, though.  When copper takes the form of hydrated copper aluminum phosphate, it is prized by many. Folks know it as turquoise.  When alloyed with silver it becomes part of “sterling silver.”  When alloyed with zinc it becomes part of brass.  It is used in wood preservation and in roofing materials to retard the growth of moss.  It is common in jewelry, although it is believed by some that bracelets made of copper also have health benefits.  And, of course, it shows up in coins (the U.S. five-cent “nickel” is mostly copper).

Speaking of health benefits, copper has a diverse and essential role in biological processes.  It presence is necessary for certain essential metabolic functions, is involved in the formation of red blood cells, and is critical for the healthy growth, development, and maintenance of many of the body’s organs, bones and muscle, and connective tissue.  It stimulates the immune response to both fight infections, and to heal and repair injured tissues.  Its ability to neutralize a class of particles called “free radicals (atoms with an unpaired electron in its outer shell)” help prevent cellular damage.  Copper is an important part of “whole body” health.

Here is an element that has fulfilled needs for strong implements, and for conducting heat, water, and electricity – important structural functions for which strength and durability are necessary.  It is necessary for good health.  It doesn’t mean that it can’t serve more decorative purposes, be they in architecture or even in jewelry.  It sounds like what might be a sturdy, stout hockey player whose main responsibilities are providing strength and structure, but one that might occasionally surprise with his ability to do the flashier things (one that might score, say, 19 goals in 47 games when his career average was 19 goals per 82 games).

Copper…the “Troy Brouwer” of the periodic table of the elements.

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