The estimated global market for copper in 2023 is about $172 billion, according to analysts at Matmatch, a materials database company in Germany. They have determined that demand for copper is on a major upswing, and as more applications for it are found, demand for it will rapidly increase. But what is spurring this surge in demand? Melissa Albeck, Matmatch CEO, outlines six reasons why copper is critical to the future of technology, industry, and our planet.
Sustainability. Two-thirds of the copper produced since 1900 is still being used. 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 agents of positive change.
Copper’s incredible recyclability not only mitigates pollution caused by producing 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 tons of copper are recycled.
Electric vehicles. 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 more than 130 lb of copper. So all of those electric and hybrid vehicles add up to 600,000 tons of additional copper demand by 2027.
Water crisis. All over the world, people face severe droughts, flooding, and contaminated water supplies. Population growth, global warming, and inefficient infrastructure will likely lead to these trends worsening unless radical action is taken. As a durable, recyclable, and impermeable material, copper will be critical in delivering clean water.
Global electrification. 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, air conditioners, refrigerators, and vehicles in need of power. Much of that power will be carried and distributed by copper. Add in the global appetite for renewable energy, and this demand will only surge further for wind farms and solar energy systems.
Health concerns. Global life expectancy may be rising, but challenges driven by antibiotic resistance are pushing healthcare workers and agencies to work harder than ever to minimize the risk of public infection. Copper is antimicrobial by nature, making it an ideal material for use in public areas such as hospitals, schools, and gyms. In fact, Bloomberg Markets believes public health applications may see the demand for copper grow by as much as 1 million tons per year over the next 20 years.
“Green” architecture. 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 been used to clad and adorn buildings to aid durability and sustainability. Copper’s corrosion-resistance even helps 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. Click here for a free download of an e-book exploring the rise of copper and the factors driving demand.