Extracting copper from rock in the laboratory
Dr Peter Wothers performs a series of chemistry experiments in his laboratory at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Chemistry. The theme is one of the ancient alchemical elements, ‘Earth’. He invites three Key Stage 3 students to his laboratory to help him. Their aim is to extract copper from a piece of malachite.
They begin by using a simple circuit to explore the conductive properties of metals. They then extract carbon dioxide from the malachite by heating. This creates copper oxide. A limewater solution is used to test for the presence of the carbon dioxide. Next they pass hydrogen over the copper oxide to remove the remaining oxygen. A conductivity test is then carried out to prove the presence of copper.