Is Copper an Element?

Copper is a pinkish-orange colored metal that occurs naturally in combination with other elements, in the form of minerals such as malachite, cuprite, bornite, azurite, etc. However, it also occurs in a free elemental state in nature.

Being a good conductor of electricity copper is used in manufacturing a number of electrical appliances. Also, due to its bright and attractive appearance copper is used in the manufacturing of jewelry and other ornamental items.

Have you come across some copper articles at your home or any other place and admired them, thinking what kind of material in them? Have you thought about it in terms of chemistry? Or worse have you asked others about its features but could not get the answer?

If this has happened, then don’t worry. Techiescientist is here to solve all your queries.

So, keep reading to know more about copper…

Is copper an element? Yes, Copper is an element. Copper is made up of only one type of atom i.e. copper atoms, which cannot be further divided. It is listed in the periodic table in group 11 and has the atomic number 29. Hence, copper is an element.

What is an Element?

Elements are the basic substances present in pure forms. They are made up of only one type of atom, and cannot be further divided into any other substance but their own atoms. For example copper, oxygen, fluorine, etc. The fundamental unit of an element is an atom.

The Periodic table lists all the elements that have been discovered so far by the scientists and position them based on their characteristics. The elements with similar properties are placed in the same group. They are represented by their atomic symbols.

Majorly, the elements are divided into metals and non-metals.

What is a Compound?

Compounds are the substances that are formed when the atoms of two or more elements are chemically combined together in definite ratios. The fundamental unit of a compound is a molecule.

Every compound has unique physical and chemical properties which are different from any of the combining atoms.

The properties of a compound change if the ratio of atoms is disturbed. That is why compounds are represented by their chemical formulas.

For example, water is represented by the chemical formula H2O, indicating that a water molecule is made up of two hydrogens and one oxygen atom.

Copper – Atomic number, Mass number, Atomic Diagram

Copper is an element of group 11 and period 4 of the periodic table. It belongs to the D-block elements, also known as transition metals. The location of copper in the periodic table is shown below:

Copper in Periodic Table

The information that we can draw from the above figure is:

• Atomic number of copper is 29.

• Atomic mass or mass number of copper is 63.546

• Atomic symbol of copper is Cu.

• Electronic configuration of copper is [Ar]3d104s1.

The atomic structure of copper can also be drawn based on the above information.

Note that, the number of protons = Number of electrons = Atomic number of an element

In the case of copper, Atomic number = 29.

Therefore, the number of protons = Number of electrons = 29

Also, Number of neutrons = Atomic mass (rounding it up to the nearest whole number) – Number of protons

Hence, Number of neutrons in copper = 63 – 29 = 34

Considering the above information, the atomic model of copper is drawn below:

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Hence, a copper atom consists of 29 protons and 34 neutrons in the nucleus while 29 electrons revolve around the nucleus in various shells.


Why is Copper an Element not a Compound?

Both elements and compounds are pure substances formed by a single type of repetitive unit viz. atoms and molecules.

Elements are the purest form of matter made up of only one type of atom. These atoms are arranged in a specific pattern and are considered the fundamental unit of an element. It is not possible to further divide the atoms into simpler entities.

The periodic table lists all the 118 elements and classifies the elements into metals and non-metals. The elements in the periodic table are given specific positions and identified by their atomic numbers.

Usually, elements occur in nature in combination with other elements, such as minerals, or sometimes, also in their native state. For example, gold, silver, sodium, etc.

On the other hand, compounds are substances formed by the combination of two or more types of atoms. These atoms are combined in a specific ratio and are linked through chemical bonding.

The fundamental unit of compounds is a molecule. It is possible to further divide these molecules into their constituent atoms. However, this requires rigorous chemical processes.

For example, a water molecule can be divided into hydrogen and oxygen, as it contains two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen.

Copper belongs to group 11 of the periodic table and is placed along with the metals. It is purely made of only copper atoms that form its fundamental unit. It cannot be further divided into any simpler substance and hence, copper can correctly be called an element.

Matter classification

Is Copper a Pure Substance?

Pure substances are the types of matter that are made up of only one kind of particle, either atoms or molecules. They have uniform composition throughout and thus, have specific physical and chemical properties.

Also, the atoms or molecules inside a pure substance are always arranged in one particular manner i.e. definite lattice structure.

Copper is made up of only the copper atoms that are arranged together in a specific manner. These atoms constitute the fundamental unit of copper and are arranged in a specific lattice structure.

Copper also exhibits definite physical and chemical properties. As all these properties belong to pure substances, Copper for sure is a pure substance.


Is Copper a Mixture?

A mixture consists of two or more types of atoms or molecules mixed together in inconsistent ratios.

The mixed atoms or molecules are not combined chemically and can be easily separated into their constituent particles by simple physical processes.

There is no specific pattern of arrangement of the constituent particles. The physical and chemical properties of a mixture change with the change in the proportion of one or more of the constituent particles.

The mixtures can further be divided into homogeneous and heterogeneous mixtures.

In homogeneous mixtures, the atoms or molecules are evenly distributed, due to which it may not be possible to visually distinguish them from one another. For example, salt in water.

In heterogeneous mixtures, the amount of combining atoms or molecules is not constant throughout the mixture, and also, the constituent particles can be distinguished visually. A mixture of sugar and salt is an example of a heterogeneous mixture.

Homogeneous and heterogeneous mixtures

In the case of copper, only one type of atom are present that are chemically combined with each other, and cannot be separated using physical processes.

Moreover, these atoms are arranged in a definite pattern, which is also responsible for the specific physical and chemical properties of copper.

Related topics you must read:

Is Salt Water a Compound

Is Diamond an Element

Is Tap Water a Mixture

Is Oil and Water a Heterogeneous Mixture

Is Air a Homogeneous Mixture

Is a Compound a Pure Substance

Is Brass a Mixture

Is Gasoline a Homogeneous Mixture

Is Milk a Homogeneous Mixture


The Lattice Structure of Copper

The lattice structure of an element is also known as its crystal structure. It is made up of two components, the Bravais lattice, and the atoms.

The Bravais lattice is the space in which the atoms are assumed to be arranged. Usually, it is considered in the form of a cube in which the atoms are arranged at specific positions in definite numbers.

The atoms inside the Bravais lattice are positioned at a definite angle, and distance from each other. Other parameters inside this structure also remain constant throughout.

The atoms in the Bravais lattice of copper are organized in the Face-centered Cubic Lattice structure.

This becomes easy to understand if you assume a cube with small balls placed at every corner of that cube and also, at the center of each of its faces.

Here, the cube is Bravais lattice and balls are the atoms. Therefore, the face-centered cubic lattice structure of copper appears as follows:


In the above structure, the red circles denote the atoms of copper which are positioned at a specific angle and distance from each other.

Properties of Copper

A few important properties of copper are listed below:

• Copper is a metal and appears pinkish-orange in color.

• It is a very good conductor of heat and electricity due to which it is used in making a number of kitchen wares and electrical appliances.

• The melting and boiling points of copper are 1083 °C and 2595 °C, respectively.

• Copper is corrosion-resistant but, it undergoes tarnishing.

• Copper is highly malleable and ductile.

• The atoms of copper are arranged in the face-centered cubic lattice structure.

• Copper is also used for controlling biofouling and its antimicrobial properties make it ideal to be used in water purification.



Copper is made up of only one type of atom and occupies a definite position in the periodic table. Hence, copper is an element.

Copper is a pure substance as it is made up of only one type of atom, arranged in a specific pattern.

Copper is not a compound or mixture as it cannot further be divided into different atoms either through a physical or chemical process.

The atoms of copper are arranged in a face-centered cubic lattice structure.

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